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Environment and Safety in Focus - what about fire?

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

There are many concerns for the residents that surround the Spiller Road Development Proposal. These concerns range from environmental to economical to cultural, and there is so much at stake resting on a decision that can never be reversed.

Like many other issues covered in Canadian Horizon's (CH) plan, the plan for fire mitigation does not adequately cover the significance of fire mitigation. According to the company’s website, (see excerpted text below, now removed from the website) the fire mitigation plan was completed thirteen years ago. This plan preceded recent years of catastrophic wildfires in the Okanagan, including fires which have since destroyed dwellings in hillside neighborhoods in Kelowna, West Kelowna and more recently in Penticton.

The OCP states clearly that development should not occur in fire interface areas. Given the weak fire mitigation plan provided by CH, their development plan is a significant contradiction to this principle.

Wildfire Mitigation There are eight points made in the Canadian Horizons ("CH") wildfire mitigation plan. The key issues are listed below along with a response: CH Wildfire Mitigation Plan 5.1.1 “Emergency response and exit will be improved by the construction of roads to service the lots, which will also provide an alternate emergency exit for the residents of all properties in the event of fire”.

Response There appears to be no independent City of Penticton sanctioned engineering study completed for the new exit road which is planned from 880 Naramata Road to the landfill area.

CH Wildfire Mitigation Plan 5.1.2 “1ncreased access to the lots will also help to reduce response time if there is a fire. Roads are excellent fuel breaks and will also provide access to fire-fighting crews. Response

Wildfires in the Okanagan as well as other parts of BC have jumped forest roads, other access roads and even highways. Roads are not guaranteed to be “excellent fire-breaks” as stated by CH. CH Wildfire Mitigation Plan 5.1.3“There will be property owners within the proposed subdivision that can respond in the event of a wildfire”

Response How will CH be certain that there will be property owners on site with the proper training and capable of response to a wildfire if such a fire should occur? CH Wildfire Mitigation Plan 5.1.5 “There will be a reduction in the forest cover by land clearing and debris removal in order to allow for home construction. Areas with tree cover and dry shrubs and grasses will be replaced with watered lawns and gardens. Proper maintenance by property owners will also reduce the fuel loads." Response Hillside Development Permit Areas call for natural landscaping rather than cleared lots with watered lawns. CH Wildfire Mitigation Plan 5.1.6 “The land that is environmentally sensitive and excluded from the proposed subdivision may be treated based on discussions with the City of Penticton so that the area will provide effective fuel breaks” Response CH suggests that environmentally sensitive land may be “treated” to create fire breaks. “Treated” means cutting trees and undergrowth, thus ending its environmentally sensitive protection. CH Wildfire Mitigation Plan 5.1.7 “Portions of the development will be set aside for parks and recreation. The park areas intended to be provided to the City of Penticton could be treated to reduce the risk from wildfire before they become property of the City of Penticton. Main trails within the natural park area could be built to width that would allow emergency vehicles access for emergency purposes” Response The "treated “park and recreation areas for fire protection will require ongoing vigilance and maintenance by the City after they become City property. Further If CH’s heralded “Main trails” will be wide enough to provide access to fire-trucks and ambulances, they should be classified as roads, not walking trails. CH Wildfire Mitigation Plan 5.1.8 There will be increased availability of water from fire hydrants and homes.

Response Fire hydrants and availability of water from homes didn’t help save homes from fires in Kelowna and Penticton.

With regard to a proposed new reservoir being constructed near the site to provide adequate water for the subdivision, there is no analysis to show the dimensions of that reservoir, including the volume of water it would need to hold. How deep can a reservoir be built on its proposed site? Do the geology and hydrology of the site permit the building of an adequately sized reservoir?

The Christie Mountain fires of mid-August 2020 and recent wildfires in several other areas in close proximity to our City emphasize the importance of adequate wildfire mitigation protocols. CH’s protocols as discussed above are weak and outdated. Forest/urban interface fires are proving to be increasingly costly to governments. As of 2023, the hillsides in the Okanagan are burning all around us. Time to reevaluate hillside development with the onset of climate change, fire and drought.

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