by Dave Preston
It wasn’t a happy Valentine’s Day for the owner of a two-storey house in Paradise Valley. The structure burned to the ground Monday morning.
“I could see my shop silhouetted by flames,” said Trevor Dixon, who lives next door and serves as an alternate director on the regional district board.
Dixon said he woke at about 6:30 a.m. and saw the fire coming from behind his shop. “It was fully ablaze then,” he said.
The house was being renovated at the time of the fire, according to Dixon.
Although he called 911, Dixon said he didn’t think any fire department would be arriving to put out the flames.
“The fire department isn’t going to come here unless it’s in the trees,” said Dixon.
A highways crew on the Coquihalla Connector first spotted the fire, which was north and below their vantage point on the highway. They too called 911 and fire dispatch called Fire Chief Grant Topham.
The fire chief told Peachland News he did drive up to the scene to ensure it wasn’t within the District of Peachland boundary. It wasn’t, so fire trucks were not called in.
“We don’t provide them with fire protection, because it’s out of the District of Peachland fire protection area,” said Topham.
In fact, the entire valley is without any kind of structural fire protection. The Ministry of Forests will send in forestry firefighters during fire season, but no fire department will respond to a structure fire. That has residents in the valley concerned for their safety.
Dixon said the valley, which is heavily forested, has been hit in recent years with a double whammy of the pine beetle and the Douglas fir tussock moth. Both have devastated trees in the valley, adding to the fire fuel load.
Had Monday’s fire happened in the summer, “That would have been one nasty interface fire,” said Dixon.
The valley has several things against it when it comes to fire protection, according to Dixon. First, there are no fire hydrants in the sparsely populated rural area, and the valley is unincorporated.
“You need water,” said Dixon. The District of Peachland has a water intake at the end of Trepanier Road and a water main running under the road to Peachland homes, but Dixon said, “We can’t tap into that.”
Peachland council passed a policy that any areas outside the district’s boundaries that wish to partake in municipal services must first become part of Peachland. Dixon said some valley residents have talked about that as an option, but he doesn’t believe Peachland wants the valley.
“Peachland isn’t interested in us whatsoever,” said Dixon.
The valley is not services and Peachland would have to pour money into upgrades, Dixon said. He added the municipality should consider fire protection for the valley, because if anything untoward happens in the valley, it could quickly become Peachland’s problem also.
“It’s something that should be supported as a first line of defence for interface fires,” said Dixon.