A slow burning fire

Last week, the provincial government quietly announced it would be preparing wildfire protection plans for three resorts. But the senior vice-president for two of those resorts - Big White and Silver Star - has told Public Eye his company, Intrawest ULC, has "continuously asked" government to look at that issue since 2003.

"This really came about during the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire," explained Michael Ballingal. "When the fire literally went past Kelowna and was heading for Big White, we simply asked, 'What's the plan for Big White.' And the response was evacuation. And we're going, 'Hold on.' At that time, there was about $600 million of property value invested in Big White. You can't just leave a town that has a tax base of $600 million and say evacuation is the plan."

He said tourism, culture and the arts ministry lands and timber technical officer Reg Nolander advised Intrawest a few weeks ago it would preparing plans to identify measures that will mitigate the fire risks surrounding Big White and Silver Star. Those plans won't be ready till November. But, even without them, Mr. Ballingal said he's confident his resorts can effectively respond to a wildfire.

"We feel there is a plan in place from our company's standpoint within our controlled recreational boundary that we've worked on with the regional district fire department. And we're pretty confident that if something was to surprise us, there is a way that we could get to it quickly and obviously wait for the ministry and forest fire department to respond," he said.

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