Ban begins at noon today

Relief: Zan Alcock and her daughter Nyah cool off Saturday afternoon at the Salmon Arm Water Slides and RV Park. - James Murray
Relief: Zan Alcock and her daughter Nyah cool off Saturday afternoon at the Salmon Arm Water Slides and RV Park.
— image credit: James Murray

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has put the lid on campfires throughout the entire Kamloops Fire Centre effective noon today.

This includes the Salmon Arm Fire Zone that  covers the entire Shuswap area, where the fire danger rating is currently high, with pockets of extreme.

“This step is being taken to help prevent human-caused wildfires and protect public safety,” reads a Kamloops Fire Centre bulletin. “With the current trend of warm and dry weather, wildfires in the region have displayed very aggressive behaviour and required additional fire suppression resources.”

Forest protection officer Larry Osachoff said Monday that weekend patrols found no abandoned campfires in the Salmon Arm zone.

“It was a very good weekend for patrols – everyone is paying attention regarding size of their campfires,” he said. “We had no unusual events.”

The zone also lucked out Monday night when  thunderstorms tracked through Hope and Merritt instead of the Shuswap, igniting several wildfires in those areas.

But several Salmon Arm boat owners were not so lucky.

An angry fire chief  Brad Shirley says if it were not for an alert from a 16th Street NE resident, a fire set in a boat at the Salmon Arm wharf could have been very serious.

Hall 3 was dispatched at 2:16 a.m. yesterday. When crews arrived, they found the contents of a small aluminum boat on fire.

“The fire was quickly extinguished; however further investigation revealed a number of items that were vandalized,” said Shirley. “Small aluminum carts and fire extinguishers were dumped into the lake and boats had been vandalized and cut loose.”

“The fire was contained to the boat and firefighters were on scene for just over an hour,” he said, noting the RCMP are now investigating. “It’s certainly not something we want to see at all, obviously, however at this time of year when we’re in such hot and dry conditions it’s very concerning.”

Weatherwise, the next bullet arrives today in the form of a cold front coming in from the north, says Osachoff.

“That’s a big heads up as they’re usually packing unpredictable winds and escalating fire behaviour up to 200 times,” he said Tuesday. “For us, if it’s packing lightning, we’ll be on the safeguards.”

In the meantime, Osachoff suggests those who want the ambiance might purchase a propane campfire, which is permitted under the prohibition, as are propane stoves.

“The only thing we watch is where they put them and how high the flame is,” he said, noting the units must be CSA and ULC approved (no homemade units), with the flame set no higher than 15 centimetres.

Osachoff says the prohibition will be posted and fire warden crews will patrol on land and water, making sure campers are obeying the rules.

Caution is also required when using machinery. A fire was discovered Monday afternoon in a logging cutblock in the Owlhead Drainage above Sicamous.

Fire crews were assisted by the operator, who had already shut down operations.

“All the equipment was on-site and he sent operators back up there to put a cat guard around the fire,” Osachoff said, noting the fire was about half-a -hectare in size. “We’re not exactly sure about the cause, but it’s definitely through their operations.”

While weekend temperatures were high, Environment Canada meteorologist Allan Coldwells said no records were broken.

Salmon Arm’s automatic station read 35C, not far off the 35.2C recorded in 2012. But the station has only been in place for 23 years.

“The worst-case scenario was 37.8C from 1930,” Coldwells said. “I’m not exactly sure where it was. It says Salmon Arm. It was likely on someone’s farm.”

The record may be broken today as the forecast calls for a high of 36 degrees Celcius.

Environment Canada predicts temperatures will be higher than normal right through to the end of September.


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