Natural Disaster Champions: Importance of planning for wildfires

June 3, 2022

The White Rock Lake wildfire, located approximately 34 kilometres northwest of Vernon, ignited on July 13, 2021. For about two weeks, residents of Monte Lake, the Paxton Valley, Westwold and Falkland remained on high alert as this fire rumbled around, refusing to be suppressed.

Then on Aug. 5, sustained winds of 25 km/hr gusting to 40 km/hr from the southwest blew the fire rapidly to the northeast and east, impacting hydro and transportation infrastructure, and threatening communities. Multiple structures were lost in the Monte Lake area during the fire’s 15 km run.

Deb, administrative assistant and Pritchard resident, was working on Interior Health’s wildfire Incident Command when she heard the news and prepared for possible evacuation. Outside looking towards Paxton Valley, the sky was angry with brown and black plumes of smoke, the fire maybe 7 km away.

Having lived through the previous year’s wildfire season, Deb knew what it felt like to be on high alert. The proximity of the White Rock Lake wildfire was a trigger, which spurred Deb in to action to be exceptionally prepared:

  • She moved her horse one week before and relocated the travel trailer to an RV park for August
  • The horse trailer came home and on standby to move other boxes, hooked up to the truck with a full tank of gas
  • She placed a list by the phone of emergency phone numbers and itemized items to help with departure
  • Boxes including passports, photos and other important papers sat ready for loading, and headlamps were accessible next to containers for nighttime departure
  • An overnight bag was packed with necessities, including prescriptions
  • Dog kennels were placed in the vehicle with their food, collars and leashes
  • Propane tanks, other vehicles and equipment were moved to an open area out front
  • Sprinklers sat on the roof, ready to go with large water tanks and a generator pump
  • A note was prepared for the window: All livestock, pets and humans are safe and removed

Go bag.A grab-and-go bag is a small emergency kit that's easy to take with you, in case you need to leave right away. It's a good idea to make grab-and-go bags for your home, workplace and vehicle. Learn what supplies you should include in a grab-and-go bag.

“Some thoughtful planning ahead of this difficult day helped to make leaving a bit easier,” said Deb. “Luckily, our home was spared from the beast – the fire was stopped by the fire guard about a kilometre away.”

Natural Disaster Champions series

In 2021, the B.C. Interior region experienced a natural disaster season like none other. Interior Health staff stepped up and came together to support each other, patients, friends, family and communities. We’re sharing the stories of staff members reflecting on how being prepared – at home and at work – can make all the difference when minutes matter.

View more stories in the series


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