A grass fire north of Ashcroft last week put the village’s emergency alert system to the test.
Mayor Barbara Roden said thanks to the free Voyent Alert system, residents knew exactly what was happening when the fire broke out above the CP tracks at the north end of Barnes Road May 18, and strong winds fanned the flames up the bank toward the area known as the Dunes in the Mesa subdivision.
The fire was contained later that day thanks to a contract helicopter from CP, which dumped water on the fire, and work by members of the Ashcroft and Cache Creek fire departments, Ashcroft village crew, and the RCMP to construct fire breaks and use sand and water to control the flames.
“This the first emergency and it ended up being a really good test of the system because it identified its strengths and weaknesses,” Roden said. “Suddenly here’s a practical application of it.”
About 100 residents had signed up for the free alert after it went live in February, with 70 more people asking to join after the grass fire. The Voyent Alert system lets residents know when there are emergency situations in the community, regarding six specific incidents: wildfires, mud or landslides, gas leaks, hazardous or chemical spills, train derailments, or extreme heat. Messages can be relayed by text, email, voice, or automatic messaging.
“We expected there would be a little bit of an uptick,” Roden said. “It was quite dramatic.”
Ashcroft had considered bringing in an alert system since 2019, two years after the Elephant Hill wildfire. When that fire broke out, the village had limited ways to contact residents, particularly as the power was out for two days. Council looked at various ways to provide a notification system, including a centrally located LED sign or portable messaging board. When residents were surveyed, an alert system received the highest response.
The system, which is the same as the one used by the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, will cost the village $1,200 per year. Residents who want to participate in the system must register online for the notification alerts, which will provide critical information such as the location of the incident and preferred evacuation routes.
The village has already trained four staff members in the system. To learn more, or to download the app, go to https://voyent-alert.com/ca/community/.