Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO) directors were provided with a progress report on the recovery from the White Rock Lake wildfire Thursday (Feb. 10).
A technical report by Clarke Geoscience looked at the post-wildfire natural hazard risk assessment for affected areas draining into Okanagan Lake.
It evaluated the risk to the public, property and infrastructure, and made recommendations to mitigate risks from environmental events such as flooding.
“The RDCO project was completed for 34 affected properties in the Killiney Beach and Estamont areas,” said Jennifer Clarke, geoscience consultant. “Although 75 properties were burned, these 34 were selected because they lie adjacent to Okanagan Lake, streams and springs.”
The White Rock Lake burned over 800-square kilometres from the north end of Okanagan Lake west to Monte Lake. Damage in several areas was severe.
“At high burn severity, there is a complete loss of forest, and all the organic material that covers the ground surface is gone,” said Clarke. “Understanding where these high burn areas are located is relevant because it also signals areas that are most likely to experience post-wildfire hazards such as flooding or landslides.”
Clarke added there is some uncertainty trying to predict the risk, as it depends on the climate and what happens in the spring, such as snowmelt intense rainfall.
“Whether or not these climate conditions occur will have a great deal of influence on what happens,” she said.
Monitoring of the areas will be the best approach.
“Looking at River Centre Forecast projections, updates through Emergency Management BC and through the Emergency Operations Centre we can track spring climate conditions.”
Clarke’s report said the fire-affected slopes above developed areas have conditions that are a threat to public safety, property, and infrastructure.
“The assessment highlights those vulnerable areas, raises awareness and now it’s critically important to prepare and anticipate higher than usual run-off conditions this spring, said Clarke.”
Director Brad Sieben asked about the fate of property owners who chose not to have insurance to cover losses.
“If they just simply chose not to purchase insurance to save money, unfortunately, there aren’t too many options for them to recoup their financial loss,” said Trevor Bohay, director of community and recovery, Emergency Management BC. “They will be able to take advantage of the debris removal program which will give them a good start to rebuilding, however, they would not be eligible for disaster financial assistance.”
Bohay added if a property could show they were denied insurance they would be eligible for assistance, which would cover 80 per cent of their loss.