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Regional district lauds wildfire response as season takes off in the East Kootenay

The region’s emergency operations centre has been busy since the wildfire season began in earnest a month ago, as a number of large fires have been burning in the East Kootenay.

The region’s emergency operations centre has been busy since the wildfire season began in earnest a month ago, as a number of large fires have been burning in the East Kootenay.

Staffed by the Regional District of East Kootenay and associated volunteers, it coordinates a a multitude of inter-agency response to wildfires and other emergency situations.

Over the last month, the EOC has been working closely with the BC Wildfire Service responding to to large fires in the ʔaq’am Community north of Cranbrook, Sparwood and in the Columbia Valley, as well as other smaller wildfires that have also recently sparked up.

“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,” says RDEK Board Chair, Rob Gay. “We also want to acknowledge the incredible efforts and support of the structure protection personnel who have arrived in this region from across BC to help protect homes and infrastructure in all three of our RDEK subregions.”

Gay also acknowledged “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.”

Depending on the emergency, there can be anywhere from five to 40 people working at the EOC to help with managing and coordinating the response, according to Gay. Protecting the public is the primary role of the RDEK’s EOC, while wildfire response is led by the BC Wildfire Service and associated resources that include structure protection units, contractors and more.

Over the span of 10 days in mid-July, the East Kootenay region had three large fires designated as Wildfires of Note, as well as multiple smaller fires actively burning across the region.

The regional EOC issued evacuation alerts covering thousands of properties, while hundreds were also evacuated.

“The cooperation between the BC Wildfire Service, Emergency Program personnel, affected municipalities and ʔaq’am has been incredible and serves as a model for other regions,” said Gay. “While we are deeply saddened by the loss of seven homes in ʔaq’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.”

Already the worst wildfire season in B.C. history, in terms of hectares burned, there is still another four weeks of fire season to go in the East Kootenay before fire activity typically tapers off.

“We still have another month of fire season ahead of us and another hot, dry stretch in the forecast,” said Gay. “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 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.

While a number of evacuation 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.

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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