Cigarette sparked the fire?

A resident of Joe Rich, where an 80-hectare wildfire is burning, says a discarded cigarette is to blame.

John Fergus, said: “My son-in-law, Matt, (was) the second one at the fire. He thought, ‘well I better stop and have a look.’"

Fergus said there was a small area on fire, which quickly started burning off in two separate directions.

“So here’s the cigarette, it took off, and he said he didn’t know which 30 feet to try to put out, and while he was thinking of it, it’s too late, the trees started to candle. So that’s how fast it was.”

B.C. Wildfire Service said Saturday the cause of the fire is still officially under investigation. 

Fergus said this isn't the first time he’s dealt with wildfire issues.

“I’ve already been the victim of a fire to the tune of $30,000 because of a discarded cigarette.”

Evacuees are being helped by volunteers at the Emergency Social Services registration centre at Willow Park Church on Highway 33 in Rutland. People who have been evacuated are encouraged to register at the church, so ESS and emergency personnel know everyone is safe.

Catherine Williams, director of ESS for the Okanagan, said they have had 40 families, or 180 people, register so far.

ESS provides evacuees with vouchers for lodging, clothing, food and other necessities. Williams said they are encouraging people to find lodging with family and friends if possible, because they are running out of available lodging.

“Without UBCO, we would have been going to group lodging, with people on cots in a gymnasium,” she said.

Williams said they have no idea how long the evacuation will remain in place, but “as long as people are out of their homes, we’ll be here.”

“Know how appreciative all of us families are who live up there, how much we appreciate how hard these firefighters work,” Fergus said.

“You have to remember that the majority of them up there are volunteers.”


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