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  • Writer's pictureRiley Gettens

Quick response contains fire on West Bench

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

2023 08 31 Edits in red below

Thank you, Wildfire Warning System volunteers (and everyone who called the fire in), BC Wildfire Service, Penticton Fire Department, PIB Fire Department, RCMP, and RDOS Emergency Operations Centre (EOC).

Had the fire continued, official evacuation alerts and orders would have been sent from the RDOS EOC via Voyent Alert. Sign up for the notification system here.


There is also the volunteer community wildfire alert system. See below for how to sign up for the community wildfire alert system. Here is how it works:


  • If you spot a fire or smoke, call 911

  • Then, if you are safe and able to, report the fire/smoke to 250-770-9095 (volunteer neighbour, Peter).

  • If Peter's line is busy, call the following number on the list until you report the fire - just to be sure.

    • Matt 250-4884810

    • Derek 250-4889422

    • James 250-7197263

    • Peter 250-4864942 cell

Everyone who has signed up will get a computer-generated voice message advising that a fire/smoke has been spotted.

  • You will keep getting updates as the volunteers learn more.

  • This system counts on us all watching out for smoke/fire and reporting it.


Email Kelly (West Bench, Sage Mesa) or Peter (Husula or Westview) the following info. Email addresses are below.


If you want the auto-alert delivered to your landline, provide the following:

  • LAST NAME (in capital letters)

  • 10 digit land line phone number.

If you want the alert delivered to your cell phone, provide the following:

  • LAST NAME (in capital letters)

  • FIRST NAME (in capital letters)

  • Address

  • 10 digit cell phone number.

  • Email address

To add a secondary cell phone, provide the following:

  • LAST NAME (in capital letters)

  • 10 digit phone cell number.

FEE/COSTS


Each home that signs up is asked to donate $5.

  • Please e-transfer that donation to Kelly (bcgirl407@gmail.com) if you live in Lower West Bench or Sage Mesa. Use password penticton (all lower case).

  • Please e-transfer Peter if you live in Husula or Westview peterlindelauf@gmail.com. Use password Fire (capital F, lower case i, r, e).


Copy of 2023 08 22 Email from Peter to WFWS members:


Newton Drive grass fire


Yet another excellent fire response from Penticton and PIB Fire Depts, BC Wildfire, RCMP, fire fighters, and helicopter air support. Big thanks to the dozen or so neighbors that phoned to report the fire to our WFWS. (As well, 4 or 5 people phoned to report the Pine Hills grass fire earlier this season.) I think we've all gotten the hang of how this system works. It's YOUR phone call to report the fire that counts and allows us to send a fire alert to 400 other phones as quickly as possible.

Info for new sign-ups for WFWS


These are the phone numbers to call to report a fire in the Greater West Bench area AFTER you have phoned 911. If my number is busy, call the next number on the list until you have reported the fire--just to be sure. When we receive a fire report, I quickly head for the location to assess the fire and then phone one of the system operators in Husula or Westwood to relay a message for a fire alert. That usually takes 10 minutes or so. Creating and broadcasting the alert takes about another 5 minutes. I stay at the site to monitor the situation. When the fire is out, we send an all clear message to allay any fears.


Peter 250-7709095 landline

Matt 250-4884810

Derek 250-4889422

James 250-7197263

Peter 250-4864942 cell


Fundraising


Husula, Westwood, and West Bench/Sage Mesa volunteers have just spent $300 for dialmycalls.com credits. Each credit is 5.5 cents or so and each phone call costs us 1 credit. The Newton fire cost about $60 for the 3 fire alert messages. Since its start up, this system has been supported by $5 donations and all money raised goes to purchasing credits. Westwood strata council covers your neighborhood's cost but please feel free to donate as well if you'd like to. I'll send out a fund raising email later this week. Thanks ahead of time for your support!

Evacuation vs Emergency Fire Alerts


We are proud to be an autonomous, grassroots, volunteer fire warning system serving our neighborhoods on a low budget. Unlike the Voyent system, we don't even have a lawyer. And we operate in real time--not after the fact. Thanks to Riley Gettens--our RDOS Area F rep--for her support and efforts on our behalf. If you haven't signed up with the Voyent system through RDOS, you should. It's the official emergency operations messaging system. If you're new to the area, castanet.net is an excellent news source.


In short, it's not our call as WFWS system operators to evacuate a neighborhood (Husula being the highest risk candidate) in the event of a fire emergency. You've no doubt heard the phrase 'tactical evacuation' quite often in the past several days. That's the Fire Chief's call. We are hoping to let the new Penticton Fire Chief know that our WFWS has the capacity to help evacuate Husula, for example, with 68 houses and a few hundred people, in minutes. Hopefully, we'll be able to reach beyond the understandable "...regulations and bureaucracy..." but in the meantime, in the event of a worst case scenario--such as Husula with wildfire about to enter the neighborhood--we will send out an Emergency Fire Alert. Here's a hypothetical message borrowing the scenario from the Newton fire. And what didn't happen a few days back.

This is your volunteer neighborhood Wild Fire Warning System. Emergency Fire Alert. Repeat. Emergency Fire Alert. The Newton grass fire is rapidly spreading uphill toward Husula driven by gusting south wind. Ponderosas are candling and a crowning forest fire has begun. This is an Emergency Fire Alert. This is an Emergency Fire Alert.


Or words to that effect--perish the thought. After that, it's up to you and whether or not you want to wait for a tactical Evacuation Order if the Fire Dept has arrived or to leave quickly to be as safe as possible. That's your choice but at least you've been fully informed of the immediate threat and we've done our part as your neighbors and volunteers. We wish to respect the Fire Chief's authority and would ourselves prefer a formal evacuation if circumstances allow that. If not, fleeing in an orderly manner is our last resort. And being "..as Canadian as possible, under the circumstances."

New volunteer needed from West Bench/Sage Mesa


At present, Husula provides two volunteers as does Westwood. Kelly in West Bench does all of our data entry. We need a volunteer system operator in West Bench/Sage Mesa so that if Derek and I have to flee Husula, for example, and Matt has to leave Westwood, someone sitting safe and sound can broadcast any fire alert messages. Meanwhile, all of us can also use the dialmycalls phone app to send alerts from beyond the fire but a human backup would be much appreciated. If you're interested, please call me. You are computer friendly, calm under stress, highly reliable, retired or working from home, and home most of the time like us. A new volunteer would also help us to cover holidays or time otherwise away for system operators. We've occasionally been down to just two people 'on duty' and that's the bare minimum. One fire scout and one system operator.


Did you lose a white cell phone on Forsyth Drive?

While at the Husula lookout during the grass fire, a tradesman passed me a phone that he found on Forsyth. Phone me to claim.


To update your system phone listings...

email Kelly: bcgirl407@gmail.com. Any other questions or concerns, please feel free to call me anytime on my cell. 250-4864942.


Thanks again to everyone who phoned to report the fire! Especially that first call.

Peter Lindelauf

on behalf of the WFWS crew




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