Fire sparked on Coquihalla doused by those driving by Friday

Passersby douse grassfire

A group of passersby jumped into action Friday evening after coming upon a fire burning on the side of the Coquihalla Highway.

Alyshia and Ken Ahner were driving from the Okanagan to the coast Friday at about 6 p.m. when they came upon a fire burning on the side of the Coquihalla, about 20 kilometres south of Merritt. A single RCMP officer was on scene working to prevent the fire from spreading.

The Ahners pulled over and Ken, a superintendent for Kilawna Builders Ltd., grabbed some shovels from the back of his truck and went to help.

“He ran over and started shovelling dirt on the fire until some more people showed up,” Alyshia said.

Six Emil Anderson trucks pulled over and the employees also jumped into action.

“They were coming off shift change so they had fire extinguishers and stuff,” Alyshia said.

Videos taken by Alyshia show the flames burning in the grass and even spreading to a nearby tree.

“[Ken] figured the fire was about 100 feet long and 25 feet wide. They were trying to keep it away from the fence because the forest was right there,” she said.

“There were approximately eight men in total with shovels, fire extinguishers and axes working together to put out this fire. A couple pulling their camping trailer home also stopped, gave the men Gatorades and started filling buckets of water from the outdoor shower nozzle on the back of their trailer.”

Working together, the group managed to stop the fire from growing out of control in the bone-dry conditions. A BC Wildfire truck showed up and Alyshia say a firefighter was putting out the final hot spots when they left.

“The way these people all just jumped in to help was absolutely incredible,” she said. “They put the fire out, helped direct traffic around the scene and helped ensure all was good. It was amazing to see the teamwork and selflessness!”

They found a cigarette butt in the area where the fire appeared to have started, and they figured that was likely what started it.

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