If you live in a community with only one road in and out, how long would it take to evacuate everyone in the event of a wildfire?
People in Harrop, Procter, and Glade are very much aware of this question because their only access is by cable ferry.
They are three of a number of communities for which Red Dragon Consultants, working for the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK), will create evacuation route plans over the coming months.
Harrop and Proctor residents had a recent hair-raising experience of the need for this: a nearby fire in 2017 had the community planning on the fly for an evacuation that was ultimately not needed.
The RDCK’s emergency management manager, Chris Johnson, says the planning process will look at questions like “how many people do you have to move, how many vehicles are over there, how many families?
“And then if we really had to get you out, how many people could you fit on the ferry with no vehicles?”
And how long would an evacuation take, with or without vehicles?
Similar principles and questions apply to four other communities on the list — places with only one access road: Argenta/Johnsons Landing, Riondel, Deer Park, and Edgewood.
Not only do these communities need to know how long it will take to get everyone out by their only road, but what if the road itself is lost? In that case Johnson says they might have to use helicopters — but how long would that take?
The consultant will also be looking at some critical evacuation questions in the Creston area.
“The demographics of Creston are quite complex,” Johnson says. “It has a major highway and major rail going right through it, and industry in town.”
He said Creston has a high percentage of elderly people and a large influx of seasonal workers in the summer, both potentially adding to the complexity of the evacuation process.
Johnson said he expects the plans to be ready by the end of March.