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FireSmart program envisions water reservoirs surrounding Kaslo

Kaslo’s water system insufficient to combat forest fire within village limits
Kaslo. File photo

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

The people working to protect Kaslo from forest fires want to establish a series of temporary ponds that could be used as water reservoirs around the town.

The pitch was made by John Cathro, who has been heading up the Village of Kaslo FireSmart program for the last few years.

“We know we don’t have enough water when we need it. We don’t have the ability to get the water from temporary storage to where we need it,” Cathro told the Dec. 13 meeting of Kaslo Village council. “So that [planning] is going to be a big part of the coming year.”

Cathro presented the idea while updating council on the community’s work to better protect itself from wildfires. He said a lot had been accomplished in the last few years by various agencies working together on FireSmart programs – from the community forest to regional government to local fire protection services.

The result has been a higher-than-average number of assessments done and areas improved to reduce fire danger, compared to the rest of the region. Several large-scale projects, like clearing land around the aerodrome, as well as projects on private property have been finished.

But while there’s been progress in some areas to enhance wildfire safety, water availability remains a big issue. Should a forest fire break out within town limits, it’s not clear the Village’s water system could provide enough water to put it out.

“Even if you do rely on Village water, you don’t always have enough in the summer for suppression,” he says. “There’s a real move to sell rooftop sprinklers, but we don’t have enough water if everyone wants to use them.”

The FireSmart committee has been looking at facilities such as the currently unused McDonald Creek reservoir as a potential emergency water source.

“The thinking is, what if we were able to temporarily store water there?” he said. “So we brought in an engineer who’s looking at it and will give us a report. The idea is we could store water there – the walls are 12 feet high and 30 feet across. If we could temporarily store water there, it could be used for suppression.”

He says they hope to hear back in the next few months from the consultant on that reservoir – but in the meantime they’re looking at other options, as well. The committee has identified a number of potential locations around town where temporary storage ponds might be set up.

“Strategically, where can we put more temporary water in places with the infrastructure – roads, the ability to fill it, put it there safely, access it – so we can strategically have water in and around the community when we need it.”

Councillors were told there were no other existing unused structures like the McDonald Creek reservoir, and the FireSmart group figures another possibility would be to install temporary reservoirs around town.

“We can get them – they’re used by BC Wildfire Service. There’s these big orange bladders like backyard swimming pools,” Cathro said. “Depending on how it works, and the appetite for it, we may want to put in more permanent water systems that would actually be plumbed in.”

Cathro said the committee was still exploring the potentials and possible solutions to the issue.

He said funding for such a project could come through Columbia Basin Trust, provincial government and other sources.

“There’s a lot of money in the system to pay for everything from equipment, to crew time, to training, outreach, education – it’s not limitless, but the province really treats this as a priority.”

Council accepted Cathro’s presentation as information.