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Firefighters face the heat

Tappen-Sunnybrae firefighters knock down hot spots in a hog pile at Lakeside Timber in Tappen on July 10. A fire that spread to railway ties the previous day required assistance from the Ministry of Forests and the South Shuswap Fire Department. - Photo contributed
Tappen-Sunnybrae firefighters knock down hot spots in a hog pile at Lakeside Timber in Tappen on July 10. A fire that spread to railway ties the previous day required assistance from the Ministry of Forests and the South Shuswap Fire Department.
— image credit: Photo contributed

Luck, along with hard work, has been a factor in quelling three recent Tappen-Sunnybrae fires.

A hog (sawdust) pile beside Lakeside Timber mill spontaneously combusted last Wednesday afternoon and spread to a nearby 12- to 15-foot pile of railway ties.

Tappen-Sunnybrae Fire Chief Kyle Schneider says the hall got the call at 5:33 p.m. July 9 and the first truck was rolling two minutes later, arriving on scene at 5:47 to find the hog pile fully involved.

The beehive burner located right beside the sawdust pile had been turned off at 10 a.m. the day before.

“As we were hitting remaining hot spots, I looked over at the CP (Rail) yard and they had a pile of a few hundred railway ties that had caught on fire,” says Schneider. “So we had a second fire going.”

Schneider called the Shuswap Fire department, who sent 11 firefighters, an engine and two tenders to help quell the fire.

When the fire began spreading to nearby trees, a call for help was issued to the Ministry of Forests, who responded with a three-person Rapattack crew, a response officer and a helicopter.

“We had an issue where we were hitting it with water and it was knocking flames into the trees, so we stopped that right away,” says Schneider. “That’s when the helicopter arrived and it was great.”

The Rapattack crew went 25 feet into the brush, where they hit water and determined there was no fire.

Firefighters, including 11 from the Tappen-Sunnybrae Firehall, were on scene for three hours and 45 minutes.

“It was very breezy; if it had been blowing off the lake it could have been a very different story,” he said. “Every time something is in the trees and it doesn’t cause a major event, we get off lucky.”

But next morning, firefighters were back at Lakeside Timber.

A driver passing the mill saw smoke and called it in at 5:44.

“When we arrived it was still smoking, but by the time we got the lines out, one of them had burst into flame,” says Schneider, of hot spots that threatened to re-ignite a fire in a hog pile.

Mill employees had worked on tearing the sawdust pile apart during the day Thursday and thought they had extinguished any hot spots.

Schneider says eight firefighters were on-site for 90 minutes Friday morning and made quick work of the new hot spots.

The early call was tough to take, as Tappen-Sunnybrae firefighters were called out at 11:34 the previous night to a report of an older Ford pickup on fire on Robin Road.

“The flames were reaching up to the power lines and very close to some trees,” says Schneider, noting the truck was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived.

“We got it extinguished very quickly and looked for hot spots in the trees.”

Schneider says so far, firefighters have been lucky in knocking down fires this wildfire season.

With tinder-dry conditions and aggressive fire behaviour this year, both Schneider and the Wildfire Branch are calling for caution.

Most of the Salmon Arm Zone is in high to extreme danger, with no relief in sight until it cools down.

A campfire ban is in place throughout the entire Kamloops Fire Centre,  which includes the Salmon Arm Zone.

Residents and tourists are asked to be vigilant both in putting out campfires and in reporting smoke or fires to 1-800-663-5555, or *5555 on their cell phones.

New this year, the Wildfire Management Branch has set up a phone line to allow people to report a violation of the campfire ban within the Kamloops Fire Centre.

Call 1-844 NRO-TIPS (1-844-676-8477), or fill out the reporting form at www.for.gov.bc.ca/hen/nrv.

 

 

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