VIMY RIDGE, Passchendaele, Ypres, Hill 70. It is the great battles that people remember. It is the heroics of those on the front lines that are remembered. No one ever remembers the logistics officers that kept them supplied.
Logistics win or lose wars. Napoleon Bonaparte made planning and logistics central to his military campaigns and victories. Ironically, when his French army of half a million strong invaded Russia in 1812, failures in logistics of supply, not battlefield bravery, is seen by historians as his downfall that led to his defeat.
On July 1, the Kamloops Fire Rescue (KFR), BC Wildfire Services (BCWS), and other emergency services did an outstanding job did an outstanding job battling the fire in the urban interface between Juniper and Valleyview.
The fire could have had disastrous outcomes, but because of their work, not one structure was lost, not one person was injured. Kamloops did not face what other communities from Lytton, Kelowna, and Fort McMurray have faced: utter destruction of entire neighborhoods.
The word I have seen most often online and in the media to describe the work of KFR, BCWS and their colleagues is heroic. That is true. Hot conditions, rapid growth of fire, steep terrain, and high risk of catastrophic loses all made the stakes especially high. Their heroic work safeguarded Juniper and Valleyview.
Credit goes to the emergency personnel for battling and holding the fire at bay on July 1. But credit also goes to the logistics that made it possible.
Back in 2016, the City of Kamloops adopted a Community Wildfire Protection Plan. Within the plan, it made specific recommendations for protecting the 4,200 plus homes in Kamloops immediately adjacent to forests and grasslands.
First, the plan laid out the fuel management strategies done to in these areas. Less fuel to burn means less aggressive fires when they happen. About 70 different sites in the city are treated to reduce fuel risk.
Ongoing fuel mitigation of the treed and grassland areas adjacent to houses paid off on July 1.
Second, having a coordinated communication plan between KFR and BCWS ensured resources were used effectively. Everyone knew where they should be. The two groups knew what they didn’t have to focus on because someone else was taking care of it.
Prior planning meant that the fire fighting resources were used as effectively as possible.
Third, KFR had the training to handle an urban interface fire. They had the equipment and strategies in place before the fire started.
Practice, practice, practice.
If there was something that could have been done better, it was in communicating with the residents of Juniper to ensure they understood what was happening. Were people told to leave as soon as they should have? Could they have left earlier? Did they understand the risk?
Definitely having two escape routes would have improved the situation, but even then, there would have been backups and delays. Even with two exits, strong communications would improve the flow of that many vehicles.
Thank goodness we have such great local media, especially Radio NL and CFJC, when crises like this happen to get the word out to citizens.
One final note. There was swift and strong feedback from Juniper residents to City of Kamloops politicians of the need for a second road out of Juniper. The residents’ concerns were heard loud and clear. Kudos to the politicians for listening and directing staff to start work on a second route out of Juniper.
Kudos also to City of Kamloops CAO David Trawin for his heartfelt apologies for his statements about the situation that many in Juniper felt diminished their concerns. He took the brunt of the criticisms of communication to residents and evacuation of Juniper.
Kudos for Trawin for the apology. It speaks highly of his integrity. In reality though, it is politicians’ jobs, not the people they hire, to take responsibility when things don’t go well. Whatever criticism there is surrounding the City of Kamloops response to the July 1 fire, it should be politicians standing up and taking ownership.
Trawin has been instrumental in putting in place the logistics that enabled the July 1 fires from becoming a disaster. Wildfire protection, planning between KFR and BCWS, and training of KFR all happened on his watch. He made sure the logistics were in place so that when the battle happened, it could be won.
Heroics are what we remember, but logistics win the war. On July 1, both were key to the success battling the Juniper/Valleyview fire. Thanks to all.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.