Crews mop up small wildfire

The no-fire ring around Salmon Arm has been broken.

A Wildfire Branch helicopter returning to the Salmon Arm Airport Sunday evening spotted a fire in Larch Hills.

A five-person initial attack crew from Kamloops was sent in and by Tuesday morning, the fire was in patrol stage.

Because of its location and the extreme fire risk, a three-person crew headed up yesterday to walk through the area to make sure there are no hot spots.

“It’s probably anywhere between 20 metres by 20 metres,” said fire protection officer Larry Osachoff Monday morning, noting the fire was a holdover lightning strike from July 23 and that a 3,000 gallon water tank had been sent up to the scene. “It dug itself in pretty good.”

Two lightning caused fires reported last week are now under aircraft patrol.

Wildfire officials have been pleased with the public’s response about a fire prohibition – up until recently.

“We’re starting to see issues around,” said Osachoff, noting patrols are picking up one or two campfire contraventions a day. “They’re saying ‘we’re OK, we don’t have to abide by the rules.’”

Osachoff says a Scotch Creek property owner had a campfire going on the weekend and, when confronted, said it was for cooking purposes, an excuse that did not impress Osachoff.

“There’s a house and two trailers and all the apparatuses you need to cook.”

Osachoff says there will be follow up, perhaps in the form of a non-compliance ticket.

“People do get the message when they receive the $345 ticket,” he said.

A fire Saturday at Marble Point Provincial Park was not the result of a campfire but was definitely person-caused.

“The majority of people are being really good on and around the lake, but we’re still finding there are houseboat and regular boat users still using campfires and fireworks and I know parks branch is getting frustrated,” Osachoff said.

He noted that houseboat companies have been extremely co-operative and have the means to trace individuals who refuse to abide by the prohibition.

On the good news front, Osachoff said resort owners and campers are delighted with the CSA approved propane campfires.

“So buy propane because the hazard is so great and it’s not going to go away,” he said. “We’re on high alert, more than high alert in the southern part of the province.”

Just off the phone following a Wildfire Management Branch conference call, Osachoff said lightning and showers are expected with fire power that will be determined somewhat to the degree of rain that accompanies the lightning.

At noon yesterday, Environment Canada meteorologist Cindy Yu said meteorologists were watching bands of thunderstorms building in western sections of Oregon and Washington. This is expected to hit south of the Salmon Arm. However, Yu said there is a possibility they could move further into the Shuswap late in the afternoon and last into the night.

Even with rain, another hot spell would soon dry the land out again.

Meanwhile, a frustrated Salmon Arm Fire Chief Brad Shirley is adding his voice to the call for caution.

“We’ve had burning complaints in South Broadview over the weekend,” he said of a campfire. “It continues to be extreme conditions and it takes only one little spark to start a fire.”

Officials continue to rely upon the public to report smoke and fires.

Call 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on most cell phones. Failing that, call 911.


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