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Dry winds bring fire danger

Grass and brush fire season has already arrived in the South Okanagan with small wildfires breaking out near Keremeos and Osoyoos over the past couple of days.

While fire risk remains in the moderate range, warming temperatures and drying winds could quickly change that. Area fire chiefs are warning residents and visitors to be careful and vigilant.

Keremeos volunteer Fire Chief Jordy Bosscha said there was a small grass fire on Sunday on an island in the Similkameen River.

Bosscha said a campfire was either abandoned or somehow got out of control. The fire was contained, but could have been more serious.

“We haven’t had any moisture to speak of for some time. It’s pretty dry out there,” said Bosscha. “If you have to have a camp fire, you should take precautions.”

He recommended having a water source close at hand, clearing the area around the fire of fuel and having tools, like a rake and a shovel, nearby.

The worst blaze of the season so far in the Keremeos area was an 80-hectare brush fire on April 12 south of Cawston. Cause of that fire remains under investigation by the RCMP. Two days earlier, a 10-hectare grass fire occurred north of Keremeos.

Bosscha urged anyone seeing a wildfire of any kind to immediately call 911 to report it. He also suggested that one take note of anything unusual or suspicious in the area.

He said that if he had one message for residents and visitors it would be: “Fire kills. If you don’t have to burn, don’t burn.”

Meanwhile, near Osoyoos, a small wildfire erupted in the Strawberry Creek area just west of the town on Monday.

Osoyoos Volunteer Fire Chief Rick Jones said Tuesday the fire was caused by a lightning strike and was quickly contained by a BC Forest Service crew.

Jones said the fire danger remains fairly low, but higher temperatures and the drying effects of the wind could see the danger rise quickly.

One of the main causes of wildfires, particularly along roadways, said Jones, is carelessly discarded cigarettes. “I hate to blame smokers,” he said, “But that’s is the way it is.

“We encourage smokers to butt their cigarettes in their ashtrays and take them home to dispose of them.”

BC Forest Service fire information officer Mellissa Klassen said that at this time of year most wildfires are “human caused,” which usually means out-of-control campfires, careless disposal of lighted cigarettes or purposed outdoor burning that gets away.

“Any fire caused by a person is one too many,” she said, because they take resources away from fighting naturally occurring fires.

She says some lightening is predicted over the next week or so and crews will be on alert.  

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