A brush fire on a Beaver Point property on Friday afternoon has reset the emergency awareness clock on Salt Spring.
Hot, dry summers for the past few years have caused many to wonder “when,” not “if” a significant wildfire would occur on the island. With a few different conditions, Friday’s incident could well have been tipped into the disaster and evacuation realm.
Galiano Island faced a 150-acre wildfire and evacuations in 2006, and Salt Spring has since then had small fires in remote areas that were quickly extinguished, but we have been lucky when it comes to avoiding the kind of blazes that have become the norm in the B.C. Interior.
People living near the Beaver Point fire on Friday felt what others have only imagined in the past: fear, confusion, adrenaline spikes and the flood of a million questions. As a result, they quickly arranged a meeting over the weekend to assess their readiness to deal with similar situations in the future and to plug gaps in their emergency preparation and response system.
But they aren’t forced to act alone. The Salt Spring Island Emergency Program, a Capital Regional District-funded entity, is set up to ensure islanders can be as prepared as possible in the event of an emergency such as a wildfire. But it can only be as effective as its participants allow. While the Beaver Point group has a functioning neighbourhood “POD,” through their meeting on Sunday they found some deficiencies in their system, such as numerous residents not on the communication list, and an outdated list of resources.
Various training sessions are offered each year by the SSIEP and there are ample opportunities to get involved in POD operations. At the very least, though, islanders should prepare a “grab and go bag” containing essentials in case evacuation is required. Identifying one’s neighbourhood POD and ensuring its leaders can reach you in an emergency is another must-do action. Contact Laurel Hanley at firstname.lastname@example.org for that information.
Signing up for the Public Alert Notification System, so that people can be directly notified if an incident affects their property, should also be done.
With hot weather still upon us, it’s a reminder that each individual and household must take the first steps to keep their homes and families safe.