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Grass fires keep crews busy

Attacking the flames: Firefighters Nigel Watts, Lt. Mark Koprowsky, Ryan Mackintosh and Sean Scott work to extinguish a grass fire that burned out of control Sunday afternoon in a field off 20th Street SW. - James Murray/Observer
Attacking the flames: Firefighters Nigel Watts, Lt. Mark Koprowsky, Ryan Mackintosh and Sean Scott work to extinguish a grass fire that burned out of control Sunday afternoon in a field off 20th Street SW.
— image credit: James Murray/Observer

Brush fires heated up fire dispatch lines on the weekend within the municipality of Salmon Arm and beyond.

Hall 3 firefighters were dispatched to a brush/grass fire at  1451 20th St. SW at 3:15 p.m. Sunday.

“Arriving on scene, firefighters found an individual who had been doing a burn without a permit,” says Salmon Arm Fire Chief Brad Shirley. “He lost control and required our assistance.”

Hall 3 firefighters were joined by a Hall 2 tender and a bush vehicle that responds out of Hall 4.

Shirley says firefighters were on scene until 4:24 p.m. and, while the property owner might have had a few hand tools nearby, they obviously weren’t enough to contain the fire.

He points out that any burning requires a permit available from either Hall 3 downtown or city hall.

“There are a number of different categories and certainly burning grass is not one of them,” Shirley says, noting that fires can get away from people and cause major damage, even in conditions that are not super hot. “People are subject to a fine for burning without a permit, but we haven’t decided what we’ll do with this individual.”

While encouraged by people wanting to clean up their properties because it reduces fuel load for wildfires, fire officials say people need not only to get permits, but burn within the limits of that permit.

Annual campfire permits and agricultural permits are $10 while larger agricultural and land-clearing permits are $150 and have to meet other requirements.

Incidental fire permits such as yard clean-up are $10 but are allowed only between March 15 and April 15 and Oct. 1 to 31.

“The permit gives you three days, but  we like you to have it done in one day,” says Shirley. “In the old days, we’d be rolling two, three and four times a day on weekends, but, for the most part, people have become a lot more aware.”

Columbia Shuswap Regional District Fire Services Co-ordinator Kenn Mount wishes that held true in the electoral areas.

CSRD fire departments were kept busy with brush/grass fires from Falkland to Notch Hill on the weekend.

“I did hear that when the Falkland Fire Department got there, the fire was under control, so the property owner got some help before it got out of control,” says Mount. “They didn’t have to do too much, but helped out by creating a perimeter wet guard around the fire.”

Sunday was a “more interesting” day, says Mount, referring to a house in Notch Hill that was struck by a truck before catching fire.

Shuswap Hall 1 firefighters responded quickly to a report of a structural fire on Taylor Road at 11:35 a.m.

“Crews hit it through a basement window and were able to effectively ventilate the home and prevent the fire from expanding,” said Mount, praising fire chief Gary Hoult for a well-run command. “The crews did a nice save, but there’s probably a lot of smoke damage to 70 per cent of the home.”

An electrical outlet was the likely source of the fire.

Around 2 p.m. and still at the Taylor Road scene, Mount heard a report of an out-of-control grass fire on Bolton Road in Tappen, heading along to Cemetery Road.

Firefighters built a water guard around a pump house, containing the fire before it escaped the property line.

Heading back to Taylor Road about an hour later, Mount spied an unattended brush fire next to the CP Rail tracks in the 2600 block of Notch Hill Road.

“I saw a power pole had flames halfway up the pole, called it in to dispatch and located the property owner.

“The owner had decided to clear material on his own and CP property,” says Mount, noting Shuswap Fire Department Hall 2 responded. “When I saw him, he was coming back with an extinguisher and I advised him about registrations and the need for resources if you’re burning.”

The fire impacted not only the pole but was moving towards an electrical meter on an adjacent pole.

“There was no real structural damage, but we had to advise CP Rail,” he adds, noting the railway had been contacted to stop trains earlier in the day for the fire on Taylor Road, which is south of the tracks.

Monday at 12:34 p.m., the fire department knocked down a brush fire on Skimikin Road.

Regional district, residents must call the Kamloops Fire Centre to get a burn registration number and advise their local fire department of their plans. As well, they must follow the regulations set out by the province and available online at bcwildfire.ca.

“We have just witnessed small fires getting out of control quickly and they’re doing damage to infrastructure,” Mount says. “My biggest question is ‘do you really have to burn? Was it absolutely necessary?’ If you’re removing slash and you want to get rid of it, take it to the landfill instead of burning it.”

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