The response by Sun Peaks Fire and Rescue (SPFR) to a house fire outside their jurisdiction could very well have saved the Sun Peaks and Whitecroft areas from calamity.
Coincidental to the timing of the fire, the Whitecroft Community Association, Thompson Nicola Regional District (TNRD) and SPFR have been in discussion for the last six months about extending the fire response jurisdiction boundary from Sun Peaks to include Whitecroft. A formal meeting on the subject has been planned for September 10.
The Sun Peaks fire department was called to a house fire in Whitecroft Village, approximately 8 kilometres below Sun Peaks, on August 8. The house, a rental property owned by Matt Reid and Christine Kissick, was destroyed in the blaze.
Typically, the SPFR does not attend fires outside their municipal jurisdiction, yet due to a general fire ban being in place at the time of the fire, the decision to attend was made. Precedent for that decision stands as Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality (SPMRM) Bylaw #0007, Fire Life Safety, stipulates that the SPFR can respond beyond its boundary if the fire threat might impact life or property in the municipality or responding could mitigate the risk of a wildland fire.
“We (went) from high to moderate (fire danger) and we were concerned that this fire could spread and directly affect Sun Peaks and that’s the reason we went down that far,” said Sun Peaks firefighter Capt. Colin Cannon on August 9.
Cannon explained he spoke with Rob Bremner, the chief administrative officer for SPMRM, and determined there could be a substantial risk to Sun Peaks if the fire spread to other houses in the community, and then interfaced with the dry forest below the resort.
“There were embers that had landed on other roofs . . . and it had already started burning log piles beside the house . . . so we made the right move,” said Cannon.
The fire department responded with Engine 3, the reserve engine for the municipality, and utilized Whitecroft’s existing hydrants to douse the blaze.
“(This tragic event) proves that the work the Whitecroft Water Users Association did last year on building the new capacity (reservoir), and work they do on the hydrants, (has been effective),” said Helen Jones, president of the Whitecroft Community Association. “It all worked and it proves that it can be done.”
Whitecroft resident Tarrah Clements, who lives near the affected home, was grateful for the support of Sun Peaks Fire Rescue.
“Living in an unprotected area, we understand the greater risk and pay for that in our home insurance. It would be wonderful if . . . discussion of fire protection . . . be revisited, even if that requires families here to support it financially or in a volunteer respect.”
Those wishes are being actualized, as Jones continues her discussions with the TNRD and SPFR. A community vote on expanding the fire service is expected to take place following the September meeting.
“People might not like (the prospect of paying) more taxes, but the taxes this time look to be a lot less than when we were in discussion with Heffley (over a volunteer fire department) because we don’t have to build a fire hall, it’s already there,” said Jones. “The community association is moving forward, this (fire) just highlights the importance of it.”
Cpl. Cheryl Bush of the Kamloops RCMP confirmed the investigation into the fire has been completed, with no determined cause.