B.C. fire chief learns from California fires

Chief Travis Whiting and Kelowna Fire Department learn from the devasting U.S. fires

  • Nov. 19, 2018 6:00 a.m.

The Kelowna Fire Deparment respond to a fire. Photo: West Coast Photography

The 2018 California fires have devastated the west coast state of the U.S. since mid-July. The most recent fires, the Woosley Fire and the Camp Fire have been ravaging the state since the beginning of November. As of Nov. 16, the Camp Fire has killed 63 people so far and has destroyed 10,321 structures which makes it both the deadliest and most destructive California wildfire on record according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

RELATED: Missing-persons list tops 600 in fire-stricken California

The Okanagan area has its own problems with forest fires every year. Kelowna Fire Department Chief Travis Whiting says that the department is constantly learning from devastating fires like the California fires.

“We’re constantly meeting with fire chiefs throughout the Okanagan area to prepare for our season. We come together to see if there are new programs that can help us. Some programs are simple, some are not, ” said Whiting. “At the end of each fire season, we communicate as we learn from the past season.”

But as Whiting claims, there is no direct comparisons to the types of fire in California to the types of fires in the Okanagan.

“From climate differences to the different amount of fuel loads there. The fire behaviour there is not consistent with the fire behaviour here. It’s apples to oranges,” said Whiting.

The B.C. government gave a summary of the 2017 wildfire season, citing it as one of the worst seasons in B.C.’s history with 1.2 million hectares of land burned, over $568 million spend in fire suppression, and roughly 65,000 people displaced.

RELATED: B.C. couple helping wildfire evacuees in northern California

Whiting says being proactive can only go so far.

“Its the unpredictability of the fires,” Whiting explained. “Every fire is different, and mother nature is unpredictable. But we rely on our teams’ responses of getting there early and we’re very aggressive with every fire.”

Whiting says FireSmart helps in the preparation of the fire season and more information can be found here.

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