Staying out of the way of firefighters while they’re doing the difficult and dangerous job of fighting a fire should be a no-brainer.
Which leads me to wonder about the state of grey matter among those who don’t appear to understand this, or perhaps think it doesn’t apply to them.
Over the past week or so I’ve had several conversations with Sicamous Fire Chief Brett Ogino. Each time, he has graciously given his time to help keep the public up to date on what’s going on at the Two Mile Road wildfire, what firefighters are facing and focusing on, what resources are going into the effort, etc.
One message the fire chief has repeated in each of these updates is that boaters on Mara Lake need to stay clear of the area where bucket helicopters (and skimmer planes, when they’re working the fire) are refilling.
During one interview, Ogino was expressing his gratitude to the firefighters working the wildfire, burning since July 20, including those from the BC Wildfire Service and the Swansea Point and Ranchero-Deep Creek fire departments (as well as his own). While doing this, he was distracted by a boater on Mara, right where they shouldn’t be.
“And I’m watching a boat cruise through the helicopter pickup spot. Totally clueless, it’s unbelievable,” said Ogino with a sigh. On another occasion, the fire chief watched as a boat towing a tube went through the same area.
“If they were on the other side of the lake where we’re not picking up water or not running our skimmers… it wouldn’t matter. But they’re coming right through pick-up areas, right up against the base of the fire, because they’ve got to look. Very selfish.”
The fire chief mentioned there had also been issues with people attempting to travel through the roadblocks on Highway 97A. The road has been closed to traffic for safety concerns, and because it’s being used by firefighters, and BC Hydro, to protect infrastructure and keep the power on.
Reports of verbal and physical abuse of traffic controllers had been received by the BC Wildfire Service.
“It’s bad enough we have to deal with the fire, we should not have to be dealing with people abusing the people that are keeping them safe,” said Ogino.
Ogino said at one point a large tree fell on the highway, leaving a Sicamous fire crew stuck on the south side of it until hydro cleared it.
RCMP and Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Shuswap Station 106 volunteers have been out on the lake, trying to keep boaters away.
While sightseeing opportunities may be limited due to the smoke, between the parts of Mara not being used in the firefighting effort, and all of Shuswap Lake, there’s still a lot of water out there to recreate on without getting in the way.
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