Despite high to extreme conditions, smoke-filled skies and a fire ban that went into effect Friday, one Salmon Arm property owner up Parkhill Road near 60th Avenue and 35th Street NE set a fire to clean up his property on Monday.
A passerby saw the smoke and flames and called 911. The Salmon Arm Fire Department’s halls 1, 2 and 3 responded at 2:11 p.m. and quickly doused the flames.
But fire chief Brad Shirley says he can’t believe everyone is not aware of the fire ban.
“I just shake my head. I am baffled as to why people are oblivious to this,” he says, noting the fire had the potential to burn a lot of property. “The worst part is, he wasn’t even tending to it. He was in the house.”
The Shuswap is a tinderbox and pop-ups from the 10,000 lightning strikes that accompanied thunderstorms June 29 and 30 are making their appearance.
Fire information officer Kayla Pepper says most of the lightning strikes were in the Upper Seymour River, with one small one in Perry River. All were less than a hectare.
Rapattack crews were sent in to attack the remote fires and provided assistance to the Scotch Creek Fire Department with a lightning holdover in Scotch Creek on Sunday night.
The fire in a single tree was located deep in the bush and was reported by the public and a rap attack pilot that happened to be flying over the area on his return to Salmon Arm.
He dumped buckets of water on the fire and Scotch Creek fire Chief Art Stoll and a crew of 14 firefighters followed the flight path into the bush and extinguished the blaze. A three-person Forest Service crew arrived to help with mop-up and patrol.
“It was single tree with a bit of ground fire and had been burning probably since June 30,” Salmon Arm Zone fire protection officer Larry Osachoff says. “We picked up another one July 7 at Blaze Creek.”
Fire wardens are also patrolling during the campfire ban. Fines for lighting a campfire are $345 per person and penalties for starting a wildfire can be $10,000 and up to a year in jail. And you may be required to pay all firefighting costs.
While rain is in the forecast, starting with a 40 per cent chance of precipitation Saturday and Sunday, increasing to 60 per cent at the beginning of the week, Osachoff is not holding his breath.
“Ask me Monday after it all goes through,” he says, noting the call has gone out for additional resources. “Right now we’re holding our own, averaging two fires a day from the holdovers. Anything more than that and we’ll be challenged.”
The smoke that has been hanging over the Shuswap is from a large fire in Pemberton. As a result, Environment Canada has issued a Smoky Skies Advisory cautioning residents to take precautions: If you see or smell smoke in the air, you’re advised to avoid strenuous outdoor activities – especially if you have chronic underlying medical conditions – and stay indoors and in air conditioned spaces to help reduce fine particulate exposure.
Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have heart disease or underlying respiratory conditions – like asthma or other lung diseases, such as COPD.
Anyone wheezing or experiencing difficulty breathing is advised to take steps to reduce their exposure to smoke and see a physician if necessary.