Central Okanagan  

Fire season ignited

Monday afternoon's brush fire in Lake Country is under control after several dozen firefighters battled the quickly spreading blaze.

Lake Country Fire Chief Steve Windsor says, his team left the area just after dark and the landowner patrolled the scene overnight.

“This morning we have two fire fighters up there doing patrol work and a forest services crew went back up to give them some assistance as well,” said Windsor. “It is definitely out at this point and we are just ensuring there are no little hot spots left on the site.”

At its peak, the brush fire was 1.5 hectares. The fire was started when a burn pile got out of control, It left a large swatch of charred ground, trees and brush.

“It went through a fairly big stand of dead pine beetle which was either standing or on the ground so it didn’t impact so much live trees and vegetation up there,” explained Windsor.“

"In some ways it was not a bad thing to burn over that area.”

The fire started on a private 20-acre site where they are doing pine beetle mitigation work. They do have hired help and heavy equipment according to Windsor.

He says one of their permitted burn piles had something picked up by the wind which got into the nearby grass and then out of control.

“They were trying to do the right thing in cleaning up the place and they just had a bit of misfortune there with the wind.”

Windsor is pleased with his team's response and the help from other local fire fighting crews. It was the second fire they attended Tuesday.

“The first one was easily accessible for our crews and trucks so it was put out very quickly. Whereas this one because of the steep terrain and the wind that was blowing at the time posed a lot more of challenge. Anytime we are into these areas where you cannot get fire trucks into close proximity you do risk the fire getting away from you,” said Windsor.

Forest fire fighting crews also responded to the scene with nine trained crew members out of Vernon.

“Those crews assisted with creating some hand guards and assisting crews from the fire department,” explained Kayla Pepper. Fire Information Officer with the Kamloops Fire Centre.

Tuesday, six of their crew members returned to the site to help patrol the fire and retrieve some of the gear they used the day before.

Pepper says this is not the first brush fire they have dealt with this season. She says crews have already dealt with a handful throughout the Kamloops Fire Centre's coverage area. This one received the most attention because of its location.

“This is a sign that the snow is melting and that the grasses being uncovered are quite combustible,” said Pepper.

The fire captain had a similar warning.

“We still have some burning season left so people need to be really aware of the weather conditions and that before they do burn anything,” said Windsor. “Even though it may appear to be a good burning day, if we anticipate there is going to be wind then take appropriate precautions.”

Forest Fire crews are already being brought back into service.

“We have 50 per cent of our fire crews back. They are training right now and ready to respond to any wildfires that may occur,” said Pepper. “They train in their local fire zones and they are also training at our new training facility in Merritt.”

Later in the month addition crews will be coming back as well as additional equipment and aircraft as needed.

Pepper says it is too early to tell how this fire season will pan out, but they are always preparing for the conditions.

“There are some predictions saying that we may have a drier spring, but it is hard to tell what the fire season will look like. June is going to be a big indicator of what the fire season will look like in July and August, because typically we get a lot of rain in June or if we don't get too much we could see a more active season.”


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