EDITORIAL: Time to review for worst-case scenarios

Sunday's fire in White Rock brings to the forefront an important question – is the city adequately prepared to deal with a disaster?

The fire at Five Corners last Sunday may indeed have been an extraordinary event – one unprecedented in terms of White Rock history.

But does that mean the city should not be taking a look at what it suggests about its infrastructure – and in particular White Rock’s water supply?

Valiant efforts by White Rock’s Fire Department and efficient co-ordination with other services clearly helped save the city from a situation that – bad as it was – could have been much worse.

But how much comfort can we derive from the fact that a conflagration that was ultimately contained to a single city block taxed city resources to the maximum?

And how much planning is the city prepared to do for worst-case scenarios?

There have been anecdotal reports that sparks from the Five Corners fire were leaping to other buildings further down the hillside. Fortunately, prompt action extinguished potential flare-ups in these cases, but it might have taken only a little bad luck, and a slight shift in wind conditions to spread the fire across the Five Corners area – and even further afield.

Would the city have been prepared to fight a fire that involved multiple city blocks, or encountered highly flammable – even explosive – materials?

It is too easy to say that a disaster of these dimensions would be unprecedented in White Rock. But they have certainly happened elsewhere, throughout history, with fires in Fort McMurray only the most recent example.

In the case of an earthquake – the big one we all are told is coming sooner or later – multiple fires in White Rock would be a certainty, not a possibility. Ruptures of gas lines, breaches of storage tanks, and downed power lines could create a “perfect storm” of destruction in multiple areas – one that would easily dwarf the Five Corners fire, as awful as it was.

After this recent experience, can we really say, with confidence, that we have the necessary resources to combat such a situation?

With all due deference and respect to those whose hard work averted an even worse disaster – this time – perhaps it is time for an independent, third-party investigation review of White Rock’s preparedness to fight major fires, and supply the water needed to contain them, in future.