Large-scale evacuation operations may be necessary should catastrophic fire break out in area; Forest fires expected to increase in severity
Squamish, BC - Squamish residents say the forest fire at Alice Lake Provincial Park near their community highlights the risks that could come with the development of a massive ski resort in the area. Critics of the planned Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) ski resort say the district currently lacks the resources to conduct large-scale emergency evacuation operations that would be required if the GAS resort were built in an area that may experience more intense forest fires in the future. GAS opponents also say developers have not provided adequate details for responding to forest fires should resort residents need to be evacuated from the area. Though RCMP was called in for possible evacuation during the Alice Lake fire, fire crews quickly put out the blaze.
According to a report today on Vancouver's News 1130, Forest Economist Tom Hobby predicts that forest fires in the province "could only get worse within the next decade." During the News 1130 segment, Hobby said, "We've set ourselves up for more intense, and more severe forest fires."
"It makes little sense to build a massive ski resort, complete with 6,000 homes, condominiums, and apartments, along with nearly 14,000 new residents, in the middle of an area that may see more wildfires," said Brian Vincent, Communications Director for Big Wildlife, a wildlife advocacy organization with an office in Squamish. "How do the Garibaldi at Squamish developers expect to evacuate thousands of people from their resort if a major fire breaks out?" asked Vincent. Vincent praised Squamish Fire Rescue for promptly containing the fire.
The GAS plan, which would nearly double the size of Squamish, has sparked intense opposition in this relatively quiet community north of Vancouver. Local critics of the development say it would hurt small businesses by drawing consumers away from downtown, jeopardize existing recreational use of the area proposed for development, undermine Squamish's official community plan, adversely impact imperiled species and rich fisheries, take away from the beauty of Brohm and Cat lakes, and put residents at risk by pushing large predators, such as cougars and bears, into neighborhoods. In addition, residents have expressed concerns about additional burdens the proposed resort would place on Squamish's existing services and infrastructure, including fire protection and law enforcement. They say existing services would be overwhelmed by the dramatic increase in the area's population should the resort move forward.
"The Garibaldi at Squamish ski resort developers would essentially create a whole new town near Squamish without providing for all the critical services and infrastructure - like fire protection and emergency response services - to support that community," said Vincent. "The burden of providing those services would fall on Squamish residents, which means we get stuck with the bill," said Vincent.
Rather than pushing a large-scale resort into a prime recreation and wildlife area, opponents say development should be focused in Squamish's downtown. Such development makes more economic sense, they say, because it would help create jobs and revitalize the town center without sacrificing the environment and placing undue burdens on existing services.