$45K cleanup project relieves fire risk at B.C.'s only fully accessible campground
'If we did have a fire that destroyed the camp we probably wouldn't recover from it,' says manager
A $45,000 fire risk reduction project is underway at B.C.'s only fully accessible campground for people with disabilities and their caregivers.
Agur Lake Camp, 20 kilometres west of Summerland in B.C.'s southern Interior, was identified in 2015 by the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch as having a high to extreme fire threat.
Now, thanks to a grant from the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C., crews have begun removing fire fuel from six acres of forested land that the camp sits on.
"Last year, we actually had a fire that was somewhat close to the camp … and we had a lot of smoke. So our risk up there is really high," said Debbie Schneider, camp manager and director of the Agur Lake Camp Society.
"If we did have a fire that destroyed the camp we probably wouldn't recover from it. So this work that we had done this year, it's amazing, it's incredible."
The camp, which had more than 400 visitors this year, has 10 structures including three fully furnished wheelchair accessible cabins, paved trails for wheelchairs, an accessible fishing dock, a large picnic pavilion and a fire pit.
"I've heard so many stories from different families that have come up that have actually never camped before because they have a family member, a mom, a dad, a child, or youth … in a wheelchair, or physically not able to go to a regular campground," Schneider told Radio West host Sarah Penton.
"Families can get out and enjoy each other, have some bonding time, get away from it all in an area where they really couldn't get before. So it's really, really important to have this facility in B.C."
Fire fuel removal
The project started nearly two years ago, but crews finally hit the ground this past spring, clearing away debris for eight hours a day for six weeks.
"Due to being in the forest there's been a lot of trees down. There's a lot of debris along the ground," said Schneider.
Having the money to bring in large crews was a huge help for the camp, because previous fire fuel removal work on the Crown lease land had been done by a group of volunteers who are mostly seniors.
"For them to get this work done would have taken years, and so to be able to have this money to pay to have it done was amazing," said Schneider.
This fall, crews will burn the piles of debris that were collected, with the project expected to wrap by January.
"We get a lot of questions, especially from people who are outside the Okanagan, about fires and about how safe it is, or what would happen if there was a fire," said Schneider.
"So just to have this work done, we can set our guests minds at ease and let them know and advertise that we're very fire smart up there and that we've had all of this cleanup done so that it's a lot safer."
With files from Radio West