By Margaret Miller, a longtime Creston Valley resident
Creston Valley, like other parts of the province, has faced hotter than usual temperatures recently. An unprecedented heat wave bumped temperatures in some B.C. communities into the mid and high forties. Creston temperatures ramped up to the low 40s, breaking the record of 39.4 degrees set on July 16 and 17, 1941.
The village of Lytton experienced the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Canada for three straight days, maxing at 49.6 degrees. On June 30, a rapidly spreading wildfire destroyed most of the village and resulted in at least two deaths. These are tragic losses and sobering reminders of changing climate patterns and the danger of extreme conditions.
My husband and I coped reasonably well during the heat wave. Windows flung open at night and in the early hours to catch somewhat cooler air. Shade blinds lowered and thermal curtains drawn in daylight hours. A ceiling fan and two pedestal fans whirring away. Ice cube treats for the dog.
Like others, I retreated to shady water-side spots a few times. Our young dog enjoyed a splash around in the shallow, cool water on her warm paws and belly. Back home, I prepared easy no-cook dinners in my damp swimsuit, a reminder of the hot Australian summers of my youth.
With more time indoors during the heat wave, I watched news reports of narrow escapes from the Lytton wildfire. Blanketed by heavy smoke and cut-off by the loss of cell phone communication, residents were forced to make hasty, uninformed decisions. What vehicle escape route would be the quickest? The safest? It was a frightening scenario.
The Lytton tragedy – like Kootenay fires and dense valley smoke of previous summers – caused my husband and I to reflect on our own preparedness in the event of a wildfire. We looked over and tweaked our Evacuation/Grab and Go list and talked about possible escape routes from our home.
Like others in Creston Valley, I live in a forested hillside community. I enjoy the smells and sounds of the forest, the bird life and animals that sometimes wander through. My hillside location allows me to look down over part of the beautiful Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area and across Kootenay River to Creston, Goat Mountain, and the towering Skimmerhorns. I like where I live.
But like others in West Creston, Wynndel, and Arrow Creek, my road is not a through street. It winds up from the valley floor to a forestry road that continues further into the wooded Selkirk Mountains. A wildfire below my home could potentially cut off my escape route. If fire, fallen powerlines or trees blocked my escape, what would I do?
Food for thought.
Of course, thinking about wildfire preparedness and responses, shouldn’t cause unnecessary worry. Panic isn’t the point here. I love the location of my rural home and have no intention of leaving it anytime soon. Hills, trees, and valley views, both in the heat of summer and the snowy winter months, appeal to me.
But in these times of unprecedented weather events, it’s wise for all of us to do a little calm pre-planning, to be more aware and better prepared, to respect fire bans and to know about the Emergency Notification System of the Regional District of Central Kootenay. Forethought makes sense.
I commend all firefighters and first responders for their hard work and am grateful for the united response to emergencies by our valley fire departments and the BC Wildfire Service. Their rapid and combined effort was demonstrated last week – on the evening of July 7 – in response to a grass fire in the south end of the Wildlife Management Area.
I am pleased to see construction begin on Creston’s Emergency Services Building, a modern facility that will better ensure the safety of residents, firefighters, and first responders for years to come.
Finally, I hope for progress at the site of the future West Creston Fire Hall. Completion of this stalled project is long overdue and – in what may prove to be a particularly hot, dry summer – should be a priority.
Enjoy our beautiful outdoors this summer. Stay cool and safe.