Husula Fire Watch - auto-dial Wildfire Warning System.
Updated: Jul 7
July 6 edit - we now have volunteers for lower West Bench and Sage Mesa. For instructions on how to sign up, please click here.
Husula Firewatch (a volunteer organization) has an auto-dial Wildfire Warning System that alerts neighbours in the event of a wildfire that is close by.
How it works:
If you spot a fire, call 911.
Then, if you are safe and able to do so, you contact an auto-dial system operator who will then trigger the system.
Everyone who has signed up gets a computer-generated voice message advising that there is a fire close by.
Once the threat is under control, a second message is issued.
This is a community system (the RDOS is not involved). The organizers rely on donations and volunteers. After last week’s grass fire, the organizers and I have received requests from neighbours in lower West Bench and Sage Mesa to join the system.
For the organizers to add more members to the system, they require volunteers for data entry of new contacts and backup volunteer operators for the Wildfire Warning System.
Signup cost per household will be $5.
These terms, set by the organizers, are intended to further extend the reciprocity and mutual support established by Husula and Westwood.
If you are able to volunteer (data entry/back up operator) – please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will then connect you with the Wildfire Warning System operators for next steps.
Once there are volunteers willing to help, the organizers will let the rest of the community know how to sign up.
Again, this is community driven and not part of the RDOS emergency alert system. It is not intended to replace Civic Ready or FireSmart initiatives but would serve as a supplemental alert system.
Questions or comments, please let me know.
Here is the press released issued by the organizers today:
Husula Firewatch was organized the summer that Fort McMurray burned and after having about a dozen fire incidents on the boundary of the neighbourhood in recent memory. An auto dial fire warning system was set up to alert neighbours in the event of wildfire in the vicinity or -- in the worst case scenario -- evacuate our neighbourhood in an emergency. In the event of a fire, a neighbour will first phone 911 and then contact one of the WFWS operators. In just a few minutes, everyone signed up receives a computer generated voice message advising that there is a fire, its location, level of threat, whether the Fire Department is on site, etc. When the fire has been dealt with – as in last week’s West Bench grass fire -- a second message is sent out to advise that the fire is no longer a threat. Husula and Westwood once again thank the Penticton Fire Department – and the helicopter initially on site – for their fast response. West Bench, Westwood, and Husula came fairly close to evacuation – once again. Our record is five significant fire threats in one summer.
Husula was certified as a FireSmart community in 2018 and the forester who audited the neighbourhood said that Husula was the most proactive neighbourhood he’d come across. In 2020, the warning system was extended to include Westwood, the contiguous neighbourhood below Husula on Mt N’Kwala. RDOS Area F Rep, Riley Gettens, helped to connect the neighbourhoods. At present, Husula is almost completely signed up with the WFWS and Westwood is at about 50%. The two neighbourhoods combined have about 175 houses. At present, each fire alert goes to about 200 phones. The very inexpensive system is run by volunteers and funded by neighbourhood donations. It costs about 6 cents per house for every fire alert message.
After the recent West Bench fire, there have been a number of inquiries about adding West Bench (and possibly Sage Mesa) to the existing Husula/Westwood system as we’re all really one big neighborhood. This would be a total of approximately 595 houses. Again, thanks to Riley Gettens, we are discussing how to do that. For West Bench residents it will mean getting organized, providing volunteers for data entry of new contacts, and backup volunteer operators for the Wild Fire Warning system. Signup cost per household will be $5. These terms are intended to further extend the reciprocity and mutual support established by Husula and Westwood. For West Bench neighbours, your Facebook page will likely be the best source of further information.
One of the main reasons the Wild Fire Warning System was set up is due to the very high fire hazard that Max Lake Canyon represents to the west flank of Husula and the rest of the neighbourhood. A fire started by another torched stolen car could reach the boundary of Husula in a matter of minutes. And – here’s hoping this is never the case -- in the middle of the night.