A BC Wildfire Service helicopter approaches the Two Mile Road fire south of Sicamous on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. As July 23, the fire had grown to 1,000 hectares, prompting evacuation orders and alerts for Sicamous and Swansea Point. More inside. (Peggy Buckler photo)

A BC Wildfire Service helicopter approaches the Two Mile Road fire south of Sicamous on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. As July 23, the fire had grown to 1,000 hectares, prompting evacuation orders and alerts for Sicamous and Swansea Point. More inside. (Peggy Buckler photo)

People not staying clear of Two Mile Road fire operations putting lives at risk: Sicamous fire chief

Fire chief grateful for the public support, including meals donated to firefighters

Attempting to control a 1,000-hectare blaze is enough of a challenge for Sicamous firefighters without them having to deal with members of the public getting in the way, putting everyone at risk.

Day four of the Two Mile Road wildfire saw additional firefighting resources starting to arrive. The blaze itself, though growing, was moving uphill and east, away from Sicamous to the south. But Sicamous Fire Chief Brett Ogino and others working to contain the blaze remain vigilant, knowing how quick the weather, and fire behaviour, can change.

“It’s doing a lot of creeping over to the south side and they have crews working that aspect of the fire as well, ground crews, equipment, helicopters, the whole available show…,” said Ogino. “The activity is now up higher on the north side. So again, less threat to the community, but there still is potential if it crosses the creek and starts burning on the other side.”

Ogino said a focus of the BC Wildfire Service is to keep the fire from crossing Sicamous Creek.

“So far the fire is staying on the south side of the creek and that’s exactly where we want it to stay,” said Ogino, whose own firefighters have been providing structural protection and attacking hot spots.

Ogino was grateful to the large contingent of BC Wildfire personnel hitting the blaze from the ground and air, and his own firefighters, with help from the Ranchero-Deep Creek and Swansea Point fire halls, who were all supporting each other in the firefighting effort.

Less impressive to the fire chief are the boaters who continue to get in the way of that effort.

“I think the message that I would really like to get out is people on the lake need to stay clear of the helicopter operations,” said Ogino, explaining how on the day prior, boats were getting in close as a helicopter was trying to bucket water from Mara Lake. “We had to move down the lake and they crept in closer. And we ended up having to chase them off the lake.

“It’s limited resources here and we need people to obey the rules of staying clear. There are boaters who are being very respectful and are going way over to the far side and going slow and staying well out of the way of the operations. There are also boaters who think this is theatre and it’s not.”

Ogino stressed those helicopters are providing support for the ground crews working the fire.

Read more: ‘We’ve got a monster sitting above our town’: Sicamous fire chief on day 3 of Two Mile Road wildfire

Read more: Sicamous restaurant gives free meals to firefighters, evacuees amid Two Mile wildfire

Another challenge is that people are going through the roadblocks set up on Highway 97A at either end of the fire area.

“Some people are trying to sneak by the roadblock saying, ‘I’m a local, I live just down here,’ and they’re trying to drive down the road to short cut…,” said Ogino. “They’re putting their lives at risk and our lives at risk because now we have to go chase them down and tell them they have to turn around.”

Ogino noted the wildfire burning above has made that section of Highway 97A dangerous to travel. He said trees have fallen on power lines, power poles have caught fire and rocks have been rolling onto the road. Ogino said AIM Roads and BC Hydro contractors have done a great job of keeping the road clear and the power on.

“Hydro has been fantastic with their contract crews coming in to fix it up and clean it up as quickly as they can,” said Ogino.

The fire chief expected the current evacuation order and alerts for Sicamous and Swansea Point would likely remain in place for some time yet – certainly through the weekend, as the wildfire is still out of control and an abundance of caution is needed.

One thing Ogino and the other firefighters at the Two Mile Road blaze have greatly appreciated is the all care and support they’ve received from the public.

“It’s really gratifying the thanks that people give us. It’s really appreciated,” said Ogino, saying his workload has been lightened by those who have been donating meals to all the firefighters. “People are just bringing it in to us and donating it. It just makes my job so much easier…”


lachlan@saobserver.net
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


Sign up for our newsletter to get Salmon Arm stories in your inbox every morning.

B.C. Wildfires 2021