Growth plan could reduce burning risk

The recent fires in Western Canada, and especially the Okanagan, have revealed a serious need to reconsider community planning.

Dear Editor:

The recent fires in Western Canada, and especially the Okanagan, have revealed a serious need to reconsider a more traditional view of community planning – housing on the inside, farming on the outside, and let nature be.

We have a fragile relationship with our natural environment.

Approximately 2,000 fires a year burn across B.C., almost half of them caused by humans.

In 2015 alone, thousands of people in Western Canada have been forced out of their homes due to wild fires.

Almost 300 square kilometres (or 750,000 acres) have burned so far in our province this year.

Over a decade ago, in the 2003 Kelowna wildfire, 260 square kilometres of forest were destroyed, 33,000 residents evacuated, and 238 homes lost, with the total cost resting at over $700 million.

Circumstances beyond our control such as climate change or the pine-beetle infestation, and those within our control, such as the construction of more homes in outlying areas of our towns and cities, further aggravates this precarious relationship.

Currently, a very large portion of Summerland’s Urban and Future Growth Areas overlap the Wildfire Hazard Areas.

Building new housing developments in the mountains and Ponderosa forests around Summerland would destroy important Okanagan habitat and increase the likelihood that wildfires will consume people’s homes at some point in the future.

As a community, we can help prevent this.

The recent fire in Oliver points in the right direction.

As reported in CBC News, “Flames came within about 50 metres of Helena Souto’s house, which was saved by the lush orchard between it and the fire zone.”

Why does our OCP, then, plan to put housing on the outside of the orchards, rather than on the inside?

Orchards and farmland could act as protective fire-resistant “moats” around our houses and neighbourhoods.

This design not only makes good environmental and safety sense, but good economic sense, by helping to keep property taxes and insurance premiums lower.

The solution is simple: Housing on the inside, farming on the outside, and let nature be.

Richard Strafehl

Summerland