Letter to the editor

On July 24, Invermere and Columbia Valley residents and visitors heard about, and soon saw, the smoke from the Horsethief Creek wildfire. What started as a small wildfire that afternoon quickly grew by the end of its first day into a major concern for the people living, working, and vacationing in the Invermere and Panora- ma Resort area. As anyone here at that time could see the flames of the wildfire were backlighting the crest of Bruce Mountain, a sight of concern for everyone in the area. Fortunately, that night the prevailing wind direc- tion changed which helped redirect the fire away from developed areas and services. We should, however, not forget that other communities have not been as fortunate and have been heavily impacted this summer by wildfires including the ?aq’am community where the St. Mary’s River wildfire destroyed several homes and other structures less than month ago, and very recently the devastating wildfires that have swept through West Kelowna and the communities near Shuswap Lake.

Since July 24, many BC Wildfire Service firefight- ers, now supported by firefighters from the USA, Aus- tralia, Mexico, and elsewhere, have been deployed to the Columbia Valley and the East Kootenay region to help contain and suppress the Horsethief Creek wildfire and many other wildfires that have sprung up in the region. Currently it is estimated that more than 250 personnel have been deployed to the Columbia Valley area to help fight local wildfires (e.g., Horsethief Creek, Yearling Creek, Mia Creek, Birchlands Creek, Jubilee Mountain, Castle Mountain, and others). In addition to personnel, many helicopters, water bombers, other fixed wing air- craft, pieces of heavy equipment, fire trucks, and struc- tural protection units, have been deployed every day for the last month to help support this important work.

On behalf of Invermere council, and the people of Invermere, a ‘big thank you’ to all of the wildfire per- sonnel (front line personnel, contractors, pilots, heavy equipment operators, incident command, and support staff) who are helping to keep our homes and communities safe from wildfires.
We also are sending out a big thank you to Emergency Operations Centre personnel, Emergency Support Services volunteers, and Search & Rescue teams, who have responded by working day and night to support firefighting efforts and the people put on alert (or evacuated) to date. And finally, a big thank you to residents and businesses that have responded by giving help to oth- ers during their time of need.

While we don’t know what the next several weeks of warm summer weather will do, we can expect to see more wildfire activity during part of it. Everyone living or working in Invermere and the Columbia Valley area is therefore urged to ensure they are prepared to respond appropriately to evacuation alerts or orders. If you have not already registered for the Voyent Emergency Notification System with the RDEK, please do so. It is one of the best ways to be notified in the event an evacuation alert or order is issued. To do so, use the following link: https://www.rdek.bc.ca/. To learn more about how to prepare your home or family during wildfire season, or for any emergency, visit Prepared BC at: https://www2. gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-management/ preparedbc. And for the latest information about local wildfires in B.C., visit www.bcwildfire.ca.

Keep safe and keep calm.

Mayor Al Miller, District of Invermere