Returning home after wildfires? Here’s what you need to know

As people begin returning to their homes after wildfires, BC Safety Authority (BCSA) would like to urge homeowners to take safety precautions around gas and electrical systems and equipment.

“We know everyone has been through a very difficult period and people are anxious to get home. For safety reasons gas and electrical equipment exposed to fire or water should never be turned on without being inspected by a licensed contractor,” explains BCSA’s Brad Bice, Director, Operations, Safety System Operations.

Here are the top things you need to know before heading home:

  1. Wait for instructions – The decision to lift an evacuation order is made by local fire officials in consultation with other agencies. Before returning to your home or business, ensure it’s been declared safe to enter by proper authorities. Be patient: Most districts will need to first conduct a comprehensive assessment to ensure the integrity of infrastructure and utilities, including water, sewer, roads, hydro, natural gas and emergency telephone services.
  2. Know the reconnection requirements – In most areas directly impacted by the fires, your local gas and electrical utilities may have turned off your connections. If your gas meter or gas supply has been turned off, do not attempt to turn it on yourself. Call your local utility or supplier for further guidance.
  3. Be appliance aware – Any electrical, gas or heating equipment subjected to fire, or to water as part of firefighting efforts, should not be plugged in or turned on. This includes furnaces, boilers, ovens, refrigerators, gas barbecues, etc. Call a licensed gas or electrical contractor to inspect it first.
  4. Use a licensed contractor – It’s always important to use a licensed contractor when having gas or electrical work done, but it becomes particularly important after a natural disaster due to potential issues around safety, home insurance and liability. Typically, homeowners can pull homeowner permits and complete minor gas and electrical work themselves, subject to inspection by BCSA. However, in the case of natural disasters this is not permitted.Visit BCSA’s Find a Contractor page (https://www.safetyauthority.ca/contact/find-contractor) to view a list of licensed contractors, and contact us to learn which permits are required. Before work begins, ask for the contractor’s licence number and/or ask to see permits for all of their work. BCSA’s data shows that unlicensed work performed without proper permits is four times more likely to result in safety hazards.
  5. If in doubt, get out – If you smell rotten eggs, it could be a natural gas or propane. Stop what you’re doing and do not create any source of ignition. Do not use your cellphone or landline and do not operate electrical switches. Exit the premises, leaving the door open behind you. Once outside call your gas utility, propane supplier or 911.

Also stay aware of carbon monoxide (CO), which is a colourless, odourless, toxic gas produced when fuel-burning appliances are not functioning properly. To learn more about the symptoms of CO exposure, visit the CO page on BCSA’s website (https://www.safetyauthority.ca/carbon-monoxide)

BCSA employees are available to provide technical advice to homeowners, building owners, contractors, emergency response personnel and gas/electrical suppliers.

For more information about returning home after wildfires including details on what to bring and how to proceed with clean-up activities, please visit PreparedBC (http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/emergency-response-and-recovery/returning-home).

About BC Safety Authority

BC Safety Authority is an independent, self-funded organization mandated to oversee the safe installation and operation of technical systems and equipment. In addition to issuing permits, licences and certificates, it works with industry to reduce safety risks through assessment, education and outreach, enforcement, and research.

Sign up to receive an email alert when BC Safety Authority news is released: http://www.safetyauthority.ca/subscribe-to-bcsa-notifications

SOURCE British Columbia Safety Authority

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BC SPCA escalates rescue efforts for animals affected by wildfires

The BC SPCA is escalating rescue efforts to help animals impacted by B.C.’s raging wildfires.

“Our staff and volunteers have been very active in supporting emergency services in affected areas, but as the wildfires spread we are escalating our involvement,” said Lorie Chortyk, general manager of community relations for the BC SPCA.

“The animal evacuation centre being operated by the Prince George Humane Society with the support of the SPCA is now full so the BC SPCA has set up a second Evacuation Dog Care Site in the Duchess Park Warehouse at 747 Winnipeg Street in Prince George,” says Chortyk. “There are currently 35 dogs in care but the facility has the capacity to handle more incoming dogs.” Dog owners will be referred to the SPCA-run centre by local Emergency Social Services personnel.

The BC SPCA has also deployed a number of special constables from its cruelty investigations department to a base camp in Clearwater, where they will be providing support in rescuing animals trapped behind fire evacuation lines.

“In addition we have transferred more than 130 homeless animals in our care from SPCA shelters in the Cariboo region to our facilities in the Interior, the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island to free up space for temporary emergency sheltering for animals impacted by the fires,” says Chortyk.

She said the BC SPCA has also contacted large pet supply companies about shipping urgently needed pet food and supplies to evacuation centres.

In areas where evacuated families are seeking temporary shelter the BC SPCA is also offering free spaces for kids in their week-long summer camps (as capacity allows).

“The situation and the needs are changing on a daily basis, but the BC SPCA is in regular contact with provincial and local ESS officials and our staff and volunteers are ready and willing to help however we can,” said Chortyk.

The BC SPCA has set up a special online emergency donation site (spca.bc.ca/emergencyalert) to help animals affected by the wildfires.

Update:

The BC SPCA Provincial Call Centre (1-855-622-7722) is now also fielding calls from pet owners in the Cariboo Regional District who require officers to attend, feed/water animals and remove animals if given the authority to do so by the owners. Currently the call centre is managing calls from the 100, 103, 108, 150 Mile areas as well as Lac La Hache and Williams Lake.

Source: BC SPCA

B.C. Wildfires Live: 10,000 evacuated as crews battle 231 forest fires

SCOTT BROWN | Vancouver Sun
PATRICK JOHNSTON | Vancouver Sun

More than 10,000 people are under evacuation orders as firefighters battle more than 231 wildfires covering 320 square kilometres in the B.C. Interior.

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says 98 new fires broke out within the last 24 hours.

The B.C. Wildfire Service has an interactive map that lists all active fires in British Columbia. Included on the map — and represented by the large flames — are 17 fires of note that pose a potential threat to public safety.

 

Province of B.C. wildfire map. PROVINCE OF B.C.

The Canadian Press reported that 300 firefighters and support staff from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick were expected to start arriving Monday to help relieve the pressure on roughly 1,000 B.C. firefighters battling the blazes.

A provincewide state of emergency was declared on Friday after 140 new fires broke out, in part due to a significant lightning system that hit central B.C. About 100 new fires broke out on Saturday.

Kevin Skrepnek, chief information officer for the BC Wildfire Service, said gusty winds and hot, dry conditions are expected to continue for days.

“Unfortunately, in terms of the weather forecast, we’re not really seeing any reprieve in the immediate future,” he said.

SMOKE SEEN FROM SPACE

Environment Canada says smoke from B.C. wildfires is clouding satellite images of the province.

A special air quality statement has been issued for most of the B.C. interior. The Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with the Interior Health Authority, has issued a Smoky Skies Advisory for the Cariboo, Thompson, Shuswap, Okanagan, 100 Mile, Prince George, Similkameen, Fraser Canyon and Nicola regions.

Residents in those areas are advised to avoid strenuous outdoor activities.

Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk. People who have trouble breathing are advised to stay inside.

CAMP FIRE BAN IS NOW PROVINCE-WIDE

Effective 8 a.m. Monday, all open fires (including campfires) are prohibited throughout British Columbia.

The Northwest Fire Centre was the final region to bring in the ban.

“This prohibition is being implemented due to current weather conditions and the volume of fires that the BC Wildfire Service is responding to in the province. More lightning is in the forecast and firefighting resources must focus on existing fires and new, naturally occurring fires,” B.C. Wildfire Services said in a release. “This prohibition will remain in effect until Oct. 21, 2017, or until the public is otherwise notified.”

The following activities are prohibited:

• Campfires
• Category 2 open fires
• Category 3 open fires
• Burning of any waste, slash or other materials
• Stubble or grass fires of any size over any area
• The use of stoves and other portable campfire apparatuses that are not CSA-approved or ULC-approved
• Fires burning woody debris in outdoor stoves
• Use of tiki torches, fireworks, firecrackers, sky lanterns, burning barrels or burning cages of any size or description
• Use of binary exploding targets (e.g. for rifle target practice)

This prohibition does not apply to cooking stoves that use gas, propane or briquettes, or to a portable campfire apparatus that uses briquettes, liquid or gaseous fuel, so long as the height of the flame is less than 15 centimetres.

RED CROSS APPEALS FOR DONATIONS

The Red Cross is appealing for donations to help wildfire victim. The donations, which can be made online, will help provide immediate relief such as cots, blankets, family reunification and financial assistance for food, clothing and personal needs.

B.C. Liquor Stores will be collecting funds for the B.C. Fires Red Cross relief effort. Liquor store patrons can make donations of $2 or $5 — or multiples of either — by adding it to their order at the checkout counter.

KEEPING TRACK OF LOVED ONES

Interior Health has set up a  call line for families whose loved ones have been relocated from health facilities due to wildfire activity in the Cariboo and Thompson-Nicola regions.

“Residential care and assisted living clients, and hospital patients, have been or are being moved from facilities in Ashcroft, 100 Mile House and Williams Lake. Given the sheer number of individuals needing to be moved to other communities, and in a short period of time, Interior Health has not been able to contact all families,” Interior Health said in a release.

The toll-free number is 1-877-442-2001. Inquiries can also be made by email at Patient.concerns@interiorhealth.ca.

B.C.’s LARGEST FIRES (as of 12:30 p.m. Monday)

Kamloops Fire Centre 

Ashcroft Reserve: The interface fire near Ashcroft expanded to 6,100 hectares on Monday. A crew including 120 firefighters, eight helicopters, heavy equipment and support personnel are on site today.  An evacuation order was issued on Thursday. Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta said a fire burning between Ashcroft and Cache Creek had destroyed dozens of buildings, including at least five houses, 30 trailer park homes and two hangars at a regional airport.

Thuya Lake Road: The fire near Little Fort is just 315 hectares in size but is threatening buildings and has forced an evacuation. “Difficult terrain is proving access difficult for heavy equipment in some areas. Smoke is thick is the surrounding area, hampering visibility to crews and aircraft,” the wildfire service notes.

Princeton: A fire burning north of Princeton has grown to an estimate 1,500 hectares. The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has issued an evacuation order for the area. A crew of 50 firefighters and two helicopters are fighting the blaze.

Dunn Lake: A pair of wildfires near Dunn Lake, 90 kilometres north of Kamloops, has spread to 1,300 hectares. The B.C. Wildfire Service says some structures are threatened by none have been destroyed. The Thompson Nicola Regional District has issued an evacuation order. The terrain in this area is very rocky and is providing challenging access for heavy equipment. Smoke is thick is the surrounding area, hampering visibility to crews and aircraft.

Cariboo Fire Centre 

150 Mile House: Just south of Williams Lake, the 150 Mile House Fire is estimated to have spread to 2,500 hectares. The fire is listed as out of control — zero per cent contained — but the B.C. Wildfire Service says crews have had some success today in building containment lines on both the west and east flanks of the fire yesterday. The Cariboo Regional District has issued an evacuation order for affected areas.

Dragon Mountain: Approximately 25 kilometres southeast of Quesnel, the Dragon Mountain fire has grown to an estimated 1,500 hectares. The B.C. Wildfire service says crews are focussing on containing the fire and protecting critical infrastructure in the area.

Gustafsen: Just west of 100 Mile House, the Gustafsen wildfire is grown to 5,000 hectares. A wind shift Sunday evening caused a significant increase in fire behaviour that has resulted in the community of 100 Mile House being threatened. An evacuation order was put in place Sunday evening for the district of 100 Mile House. More than 100 firefighters as well as an Incident Management Team and support staff, helicopters, air tankers, and 30 pieces of heavy equipment will be on site today.

Hanceville: Fires are burning more than 10,000 hectares in the Hanceville area, located 60 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake. The B.C. Wildfire Service says this incident involves numerous fires over a large area of approximately 25 kilometres by 40 kilometres. The Cariboo Regional District has issued an evacuation order for affected areas.

Wildwood: The fire burning in the Wildwood area near the Williams Lake Airport has grown to 2,000 hectares. The fire is zero per cent contained by crews had success in anchoring the base of the fire into Highway 97 Sunday, meaning they are building containment lines to work from. The focus is on protecting Highway 97 and the community of Wildwood.

Soda Creek: The Soda Creek fire sparked up Saturday night 25 kilometres northwest of Williams Lake, is about 100 hectares in size and is threatening buildings.

Spokin Lake Road: Burning 20 kilometres east of Williams Lake, the Spokin lake fire is 300 hectares in size and is threatening buildings. This area is covered by one of several evacuation orders from the Cariboo Regional District.

Coastal Fire Centre 

Harrison Lake: Currently the only active fire in the Coastal Fire Centre region, the 185-hectare Harrison Lake blaze has been burning since July 1 and is now listed at 40 per cent contained. An area restriction order and a forest service road closure has been issued to clear this area of recreationalists. No structures are currently threatened.

Prince George Fire Centre 

2.5 km East of War Lake: 16 Firefighters and one helicopter are being used to battle this 55 hectare fire. Another 10 firefighters are en route. The fire is listed as out of control but 50 per cent contained.

5 W of Tatelkuz Lake: The B.C. Wildfire Service says this 950 hectare interface fire has burnt up the edge of private land. An evacuation alert has been issued by Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako.

Big Bend Creek:  The fire, which was believed to be started by lightning on Saturday, is listed at 960 hectares and out of control. An evacuation alert is in effect

Grizzly Lake:  20 firefighters are battling this 250-hectare blaze. An evacuation alert is in effect.

Sutherland Road: The B.C. Wildfire Service says the 700-hectare fire is “zero per cent contained and is currently out of control.”  An evacuation alert is in effect.

Wildfire situation in British Columbia and surrounding area: IBC is here to help – Safety remains first priority

July 8, 2017 (VANCOUVER) – As British Columbia has declared a state of emergency due to wildfires burning out of control throughout much of the Interior, Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is reaching out with information and advice for those affected.

“Our thoughts are with those whose lives have been disrupted and whose homes have been destroyed. The priority right now is the safety of those affected and their loved ones,” said Aaron Sutherland, Vice-President, Pacific, IBC. “The insurance industry is here to help. Anyone with questions about their home or business insurance can call their insurance representative or IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1‑844‑2ask‑IBC.”

What insurance covers

Most home and business insurance policies cover fire damage. If residents have to leave their homes because of a mandatory evacuation order issued by civil authorities, most homeowner’s and tenant’s insurance policies will provide coverage for reasonable additional living expenses for a specified period of time. Your insurance representative is at the ready to clarify the details of your policy.

The claims process

If you have been affected by a wildfire, when safe to do so, take the following steps:

  • Assess and document the damage. Taking photos can be helpful.
  • Call your insurance representative and/or company.
  • List all damaged or destroyed items.
  • If possible, assemble proofs of purchase, photos, receipts and warranties. Take photos of the damage and keep damaged items unless they pose a health hazard.
  • Keep all of the receipts related to cleanup, and if you’ve been ordered to leave your home, keep the receipts for your living expenses.
  • Ask your insurance representative what living expenses you’re entitled to be reimbursed for and for what period of time.

Next steps

  • Once you have reported a loss, you will be assigned a claims adjuster. It may take some time, given the number of people affected by the wildfires, but you will be contacted.
  • The claims adjuster will investigate the circumstances of your loss, examine the documents you provide and explain the process. Take notes during the conversations and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Your insurance company will ask you to complete a Proof of Loss form, to list the property and/or items that have been damaged or destroyed, with the corresponding value or cost of the damage or loss. You must sign and swear that the statements you make in the Proof of Loss form are true. Ask your insurance representative or claims adjuster to clarify anything you are unsure about.

Resources

Anyone with questions should contact their insurance representative or IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC.

For additional information, consumers can also visit www.ibc.ca  or email askibcwest@ibc.ca.

Flood Threat: Severe thunderstorm watch issued for Okanagan

By Matt Meuse, CBC News

The mayor of Kelowna, B.C., is warning residents to prepare for dramatic flooding expected to begin Thursday evening as heavy rain returns to the southern Interior.

“Over the next few days, we will see water levels in our city — particularly in creeks and in our lakes — reach levels we’ve never seen before,” Mayor Colin Basran said in a video posted online by the City of Kelowna.

“I know we got a bit of a taste of it this past weekend, and by all accounts we will see flooding to that level and possibly beyond.”

Basran urged residents — even those in upland areas — to take protective measures like building sandbag berms to protect property, and to prepare 72-hour emergency preparedness kits. He said the rain may also cause road washouts and landslides.

Check in on friends

Basran also asked residents to check in on friends, family and neighbours, and to consider taking those people into their homes if possible, because hotels in Kelowna are nearing capacity.

“This is the time now where as a community, we need to come together and look after each other,” Basran said.

Kelowna floodplain

A floodplain map of downtown Kelowna shows one area the city expects may be at significant risk of flooding Thursday evening. (City of Kelowna)

Todd Cashin, suburban and rural planning manager with the City of Kelowna, said much of downtown Kelowna is at risk of flooding from Mission and Mill creeks. He said the city has been diking to prepare, but historically much of the area has acted as a spillway for the two creeks.

“You’ll see some old photos from the 1930s — basically the whole area, the flat part of Kelowna — is on a floodplain,” Cashin said.

Rain began this morning in Kelowna. Cashin says peak water levels are generally expected 12 to 18 hours after that.

Information about emergency preparedness kits and where to obtain sand and sandbags is available on the Central Okanagan Regional District’s website.

Alerts in effect across province

Hundreds of people around the province remain out of their homes after numerous evacuation orders were issued during last week’s flooding.

The B.C. River Forecast Centre has posted a flood watch for the Salmon River in Shuswap, while high streamflow advisories cover most waterways across the southern and southeastern parts of the province.

High streamflow advisories are also in place for northern parts of the province, including the Bulkley Valley, northeast B.C. and the Peace region.

Environment Canada warned storms packing up to 70 millimetres of rain are expected by Friday and could drop a further 20 to 30 millimetres across northern regions by Saturday.

Severe thunderstorm watches were issued for parts of the central and southern Interior, with the potential for strong winds, hail and heavy rain.

Real time streamflow data can be viewed on the River Forecast Centre’s website.

Water damage has surpassed fire as the leading cause of home insurance payouts, according to IBC.

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