While several blazes burned across the Okanagan, Regional Districts had to put a different kind of fire out when the 911 lines jammed causing constituents to panic.
Karla Kozakevich, chair of the RDOS and director for Area E (Naramata), said she was holding a public meeting about adding an additional agri-tourism suite on Lower DeBeck Road when her phone started vibrating non-stop.
“I was doing a public hearing then I had to call it because my phone kept vibrating. I have a phone where the voice messages translate to text so I saw about the fires and the problems with 911 and told them sorry folks we need to take a break while I deal with some fires,” she said.
At least 13 fires broke out Tuesday evening in the Okanagan and Similkameen when a lightening storm rolled through the area.
“Apparently I’m hearing there were so many calls coming into 911. When you call in they ask fire, ambulance, police, they were just so overwhelmed with two fires in Naramata and a fire in Summerland there was fires in the Central Okanagan as well in Peachland and the Joe Rich area. They were all calling in at once. I texted the chief and asked the person to keep calling 911 and let me know when they get through,” she said.
Kozakevich said fires were bound to happen with the drastic switch to hot weather. She said she heard thunder before she went into the public meeting at 7 p.m. and knew that would bring lightening.
She said the inability to get through to 911 is usually not an issue.
“it’s not that something is not getting reported but that 100 people are phoning about the same thing. It’s tough for people when they don’t get an answer when calling 911.”
Residents in the Central Okanagan also complained of ‘failed calls’ or dispatch hanging up on them when they dialed 911.
One resident said he tried to call 911 regarding a fire in Kelowna, but was immediately put on hold and then the call dropped.
A fire in Naramata came dangerously close to a home, Kozakevich said.
“It was on North Naramata Road around the 6,000 block, which means it’s headed towards Indian Rock. There was a house near there but the Naramata fire department put it out,” she said.
The other fire is up in the hills near the KVR trail near a place known as Rock Oven Park.
“There’s no structures up there. B.C. Wildfire is up there working on it now. So between the Naramata Fire Department and the B.C. Wildfire Service things are starting to calm down,” she said.
Kozakevich said she could see the Summerland Fire from her deck and noted that air bombers and helicopters were on scene and it looked as if the fire was being contained.