Storm sparks fire starts

A vicious little storm delivered a cold front to the Shuswap Thursday afternoon – along with 800 lightning strikes between Kamloops and Revelstoke.

A vicious little storm delivered a cold front to the Shuswap Thursday afternoon – along with 800 lightning strikes between Kamloops and Revelstoke.

Wind gusts were clocked as high as 50 km/h at the Salmon Arm weather station, but Environment Canada’s warning preparedness meteorologist Doug Lundquist, says gusts could have reached as high as 80 km/h between stations.

Chase RCMP officers rescued the occupants of a houseboat at Cinnemousun Narrows, where the four-foot waves caused the owner to lose control of the houseboat when he tried to save a disabled runabout.

The Kamloops Fire Centre received more than 100 smoke reports and, thanks to alert members of the public, the crews were able to respond quickly to put them out, says fire information officer Kayla Pepper.

Fortunately the lightning was accompanied by a significant amount of precipitation, which helped keep the fires within spot size. Initial attack crews supported by bird-dog aircraft checked out all the smoke reports and Pepper said the bird dog might be going up again Friday to make sure no “sleepers” escape detection.

“The recent storm activity serves as a reminder to the public to be diligent in preventing human-caused fires, to permit the Wildfire Management Branch to allocate resources to naturally occurring wildfires,” said Pepper.

Despite the wet and colder-than-normal spring, most of the Salmon Arm Zone, which is part of the Kamloops Fire Centre, was already in the moderate to high danger rating last Thursday.

In fact, a swath extending from Salmon Arm to Enderby was already in the high danger rating category.

The weather has helped keep wildfire statistics down compared to other years. There have been 70 wildfires in the Kamloops Fire Centre since April 1 when the season started, compared to the 10-year average of 162 for the same time period.

The good news locally is that there have only been five fires in the Salmon Arm Zone this year, all under one hectare in size. The bad news is that every one of them was person-caused.

“Every year, half of all wildfires are caused by human activity and, therefore, preventable,” says a fire centre press release.

The fire centre has issued a reminder to residents throughout its zones that open fire restrictions remain in place. Only campfires smaller than a half-metre wide by a half-metre tall are permitted.  Any open fire larger than this is prohibited.

Anyone found in contravention of an open fire ban may be issued a $345 ticket or, if convicted in court, be fined up to $100,000 and sentenced to one year in jail.

Cause a wildfire and you could be subject to a penalty of up to $10,000 and be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.

 

To report unauthorized burning or an unattended campfire, call *5555 on your cellphone or toll-free to 1-800-663-5555.