Letter to the editor

It’s been nearly one month since the St. Mary’s River fire ignited, prompting a multi-agency response and an unofficial start to an active July fire season in the East Kootenay.

As a region, we are profoundly grateful for the tireless efforts of the BC Wildfire Service, from their front-line personnel to the contractors, pilots, heavy equipment operators and support staff. We also want to acknowledge the incredible efforts and support of the structure protection personnel who have arrived in this region from across B.C. to help protect homes and infrastructure in all three of our RDEK sub-regions; our Emergency Operations Centre personnel, Emergency Support Services volunteers and search and rescue teams, who have worked day and night to support the firefighting efforts and those who have been evacuated or put on alert; and, all the residents who’ve been stepping up to support people in whatever way they can from taking in pets, to helping move livestock, donating supplies, or assisting friends, neighbours and even strangers. 

Over the course of 10 days, the East Kootenay went from having one wildfire of note to three in addition to multiple active fires. Thousands of people were on Evacuation Alert across the region, while hundreds were evacuated. 

The cooperation between the BC Wildfire Service, Emergency Program personnel, affected municipalities and ?aq’am has been incredible and serves as a model for other regions. While we are deeply saddened by the loss of seven homes in ?aq’am, we are grateful that so many others have been saved and I want to thank every individual who has played a role in this year’s wildfire response, no matter how big or how small their role may have been.

While a number of alerts and orders have been rescinded, there are still numerous active fires within the region and a number of alerts remain in effect. The Regional Emergency Operations Centre remains activated in support. The Regional Information Line is open at 250-426-2188 or 1-855-346-2188 and has a recorded message with the latest information when not staffed. 

We still have another month of fire season ahead of us and another hot, dry stretch in the forecast. Every resident in the region is urged to take steps to ensure they are prepared and staying on top of the latest news and information about local conditions. If you have not already registered for the Regional Evacuation System, you are urged to do so as this is one of the fastest ways to be notified in the event your property is under Evacuation Order or Alert.  

For the latest information on local wildfires, visit www.bcwildfire.ca. To learn more about how to prepare your home or family during wildfire season – or for any emergency – visit Prepared BC or contact the RDEK.

Rob Gay, chairperson, 

Regional District of East Kootenay