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Season for caution in forests

A fallen tree pulled down a section of power line along Sunnybrae-Canoe Point Road near the Sunnybrae Park on Monday evening. Crews were called in to extinguish the fire and remove the tree from the roadway. - Photo contributed
A fallen tree pulled down a section of power line along Sunnybrae-Canoe Point Road near the Sunnybrae Park on Monday evening. Crews were called in to extinguish the fire and remove the tree from the roadway.
— image credit: Photo contributed

Dead or alive, a tree that crashed down on a powerline Monday set fire to a swath of forest along Sunnybrae-Canoe Point Road.

Tappen-Sunnybrae Fire Chief Kyle Schneider said the road was closed to traffic for three hours after  two dead trees fell on the lines around 5:22 p.m. June 9.

The fire, located near Sunnybrae Beach, had burned itself out by the time firefighters responded.

“But it took off again shortly and we couldn’t put water on it because the power was still on,” said Schneider, who notes residents and some of his firefighters were trapped on the Trans-Canada side of the fire for about three hours.

BC Hydro arrived on scene at 6:15 p.m. and had the power off by 6:30. Once the lines were dead, local firefighters and a three-person initial attack crew from the Ministry of Forests rapattack base attacked the fire, which had climbed some 600 feet up the hill below the bluffs.

Fire protection officer Larry Osachoff says the rapattack team took the lead on the wildland fire, providing valuable training to the structural firefighters in what he describes as a unified command that had him and Schneider in charge.

Osachoff says that as of Tuesday, the fire was on patrol stage and would be checked often to make sure there are no hot spots.

Asked about maintenance along the road. BC Hydro officials describe the tree as a very large, live Douglas fir whose root system failed due to root rot, something that is often not visible.

“This tree would not have been identified as a potential hazard tree,” reads a June 11 email. “BC Hydro assessed trees growing along the Sunnybrae Road powerline and removed hazard trees in 2011 and 2013.

Meanwhile, Osachoff says the fire is a reminder that there are pockets of tinder-dry areas in the Shuswap – mostly in the south.

The Kamloops Fire Centre confirms there have been five fires in the Salmon Arm Zone this year – all of them human caused.

Fire information officer Kelsey Googel notes a fire ban begins in the zone June 15, after which only campfires are permitted until October.

Anyone who sees smoke should report it to 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on their cellphone.

“Even if you’re not sure if it’s smoke, haze or fog, call it in because we rely on the public,” Googel said.

 

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