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West Kelowna  

Fireballs drop from sky

Alanna Kelly

Trained pilots were tasked with intentionally setting fire to a 150-hectare space between two wildfires in Peachland.

A planned ignition by the BC Wildfire Service had many residents concerned another fire had ignited, but it was the joining of the Mount Eneas and Munro Lake wildfires.

Incident commander Glen Burgess says the space between the two would have burned eventually, but this way they could control the burn.

“We use an ignition device called plastic spherical dispensor, basically dropping round balls, similar to ping pong balls, filled with a chemical,” he said.
 
A hopper is filled inside the helicopter, which is then filled with the balls and as they roll, they get injected with glycol.

Burgess said based on the amount of glycol that gets injected, they can control the length of time before the chemical reaction occurs in the balls.

“It’s not on fire when it leaves the machine, it will hit the ground, the chemical reaction occurs and then it bursts into flames,” said Burgess.

This practice is common with fighting wildfires and the cost is relative when a risk assessment is conducted.

“All things being equal they're actually surprisingly cheap,” he said.

A fixed wing air tanker was used to place retardant along the top of the burn area, which was quite costly. But Burgess says it isn’t something they get concerned about.

“When you factor in human life and property, we sort of don’t get worried about the cost if we are protecting those kinds of values,” he said.

“It won’t be a shocking amount,” he said.

Due to firefighters' diligent work, no structures have been lost from the fires currently burning.

"There is a lot of fire there now, but it is fire we initiated," he said. "We took a lot of precautions, we don’t make those decision lightly and at the end of the day we hope there will be less smoke."

Burgess said his biggest concern at this point is an unexpected wind event.

“We still have a lot of fire out there in a variety of places that is not contained and if we had an unexpected wind event that would cause us problems for sure,” he said.



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