Sicamous’ mayor thinks the wildfire burning out of control on the district’s doorstep can be beat.
On Tuesday afternoon, July 20, Mayor Terry Rysz said Sicamous was covered in smoke from the Wiseman Creek wildfire which, at the time, was estimated to be 60 hectares in size and classified as out of control.
He said it started when a van travelling on Highway 97 knocked over a hydro pole with a transformer on it. He said the transformer exploded when it hit the ground, creating a fire which climbed up a hill near one of the district’s trailer parks.
Since then, four helicopters, several water bombers and fire crews have been fighting the blaze.
“We got a challenge in front of us, but right now we have the opportunity, and maybe the ability, to correct this so it doesn’t become devastating. We’re throwing everything we can at this fire,” said Rysz.
Sicamous’ Fire Chief Brett Ogino and the rest of the fire department are on scene, along with district operations manager Darrell Symbaluk. They’re helping BC Wildfire crews where they can and relaying updates to Rysz frequently.
The district has a plan in place for full evacuation if necessary, and is currently housing some evacuees already.
Rysz said the district is prepared for wildfire scenarios and noted his respect for those fighting the fire and those involved in emergency planning.
“At the senior’s centre we have a complex where we’re looking out for evacuees. It’s going quite well, it’s quite organized,” said Rysz.
He said he’s received calls from folks on the outskirts of the district offering to house and support evacuees in any way they can.
“The town’s really coming together, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.
Fire crews were attacking the north side of the fire, the side closest to Sicamous. Rysz was hoping there wouldn’t be any winds blowing north, making their jobs harder and putting Sicamous in danger.
Highway 97A near the fire was open to local traffic only, and Rysz anticipated that would be the case for the next few days.
Local traffic was allowed because as it might be part of the evacuation process, said Rysz.
“It’s a complicated scenario to say, if you’re going to your home, then that’s fine, but if you’re trying to get to Vernon, don’t take this route,” he added, encouraging people to instead travel through Salmon Arm to Highway 97B.