TNRD director says EOC had locals help field ranching, agriculture questions as Rossmoore fire burned

Ranchers helped during fire

A Thompson-Nicola Regional District director says people with agricultural expertise were brought into the local Emergency Operations Centre to help field calls as the Rossmoore Lake wildfire burned south of Kamloops.

Doug Haughton, director for Electoral Area L, spoke to some of the partnerships that helped the TNRD and BC Wildfire Service respond to the wildfire during a discussion at the Union of BC Municipalities convention on Tuesday.

He noted the Rossmoore Lake wildfire burned from a forested area near Lac Le Jeune to about 10 kilometres south of the City of Kamloops. In total, about 11,382 hectares of land were burned, and one unaddressed structure was destroyed. The blaze is now classified as being held.

“We’ve got a lot of agriculture around the area of Kamloops. We brought in three people from agricultural backgrounds sit in at the EOC,” Haughton said.

He said these three people rotated fielding agricultural-related calls. The EOC also received assistance from a member of the BC Cattleman’s Association to tackle questions about livestock.

Haughton said the BC Wildfire Service and the BC Cattleman’s Association hired 52 rancher liaisons to work in local EOCs — including the TNRD — during the wildfire season.

“We were evacuating livestock, we had to get them housed somewhere,” Haughton said, noting the liaison worked closely with area ranchers one-on-one.

“I worked with him to get him all the names and the phone numbers and fielded the calls, and that system worked good — we didn’t have a crisis in the cattle world."

Haughton, who ranches in the Knutsford area, said the fire took out a lot of his neighbours’ personal timber lands, and got into the grazing grasslands, but his own property “wasn’t hit too hard.”

He said he had his property selectively logged a few years ago, taking away some timber to mills and some went to River City Fibre. The slash piles were chipped and taken away to Kamloops and Merritt.

“We left a clean forest floor. After that was over, I hired a helicopter and seeded the whole grassland, all the bush, with grass. I was left with a relatively green forest and grass floor,” Haughton said.

He said the wildfire seemed to largely go around his property.

“Whether that was the reason or not, I don’t know, but I’m just saying what I did — I think it helped stop the fire from getting down towards Kamloops,” Haughton said.

During the discussion, which focused on preparing for future wildfires, a number of local government representatives spoke to the importance of applying FireSmart principles, improving communication with BC WIldfire Service, and leveraging local knowledge to help battle wildfires.

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