The fatal wildfire that ripped through the Fraser Valley village of Lytton earlier this month has people in the Alberni Valley talking about wildfire evacuation plans. Many are shocked to discover the region doesn’t have one.
Plans are in the works, as you may have read elsewhere in our July 14, 2021 print edition.
We have heard that before.
In 2019 the ACRD updated its Community Wildfire Protection Plan, identifying areas at highest risk for an “interface” fire—a wildfire that has the potential to involve buildings and forested areas simultaneously.
Coronavirus pandemic aside, why are we only now at the planning stage for a Valley-wide evacuation plan if high-risk areas were identified two years ago?
It’s not like the idea of wildfires in the Alberni Valley is new.
Our big warning came in 2015, when 425 hectares of Dog Mountain near Sproat Lake burned for a week and smouldered for a few more. It wasn’t the biggest nor most devastating wildfire of 2015, but it burned in the shadow of the landlocked Martin Mars waterbombers, which will forever be a sore point for Alberni Valley residents.
In 2018, three wildfires burned within days of each other, at Turtle Lake in the Great Central area, the Beaufort Range (close to where another fire just happened this month) and Arbutus Ridge across from Harbour Quay.
Now we have had approximately a dozen small outdoor fires burn in the past week, all but one of them handled by the four local fire departments in Port Alberni, Cherry Creek, Beaver Creek and Sproat Lake.
It is past time that the region has both a FireSmart plan to clean up the area and an evacuation plan to get people out if necessary.
We hope this will remain a priority and not be put on the backburner again.
— Alberni Valley News