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Discarded cigarette blamed for Salmon Arm roadside fire

Passersby manage to extinguish flames July 24 before they spread to nearby trees
A grass fire beside Highway 1 near the junction with Highway 97B, believed to be caused by a discarded cigarette butt, was extinguished by three passersby about 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 24 before it ignited nearby trees. (Nell Saba photo)

At least one person in the Salmon Arm area apparently missed the message about the dangers of cigarettes and wildfires.

About 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 24, Nell Saba and Emilyn Sim, Shuswap residents, were driving in northeast Salmon Arm near the junction of the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 97B.

They spotted what looked like smoke at the edge of Highway 1 so pulled over and quickly crossed the road. A man had also pulled up on the other side of the roadway.

Saba said they were surprised to see a line of flames about 10-feet long below the roadway. They began stomping them out, Saba less than Sim and the man as she was wearing thin shoes and was calling 911.

“Eventually it all got stomped out, every last flame,” she said.

Then a police car, which she surmised was just driving by, stopped. The officer had a fire extinguisher and, a few moments later, two fire trucks arrived.

Saba was concerned at the time that the dry trees nearby were going to ignite.

“I actually thought it was going to be the next wildfire.”

She said the incident has left her a little paranoid about fires, because the smoke looked like dust when they first saw it.

“Now I’m seeing smoke everywhere.”

Saba said she realizes how quickly a fire can take off, and is glad it was spotted quickly.

The Salmon Arm Fire Department said the brush fire is believed to have been ignited by a carelessly discarded cigarette. Although the fire was quickly extinguished, the department warned via its Facebook page that it could have been catastrophic given current conditions.

Remarked Fire Chief Brad Shirley: “It’s disturbing to have to respond to those type of calls at any time of the year, but particularly this time of the year when the fire danger is extreme.”

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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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