Warm weather keeps fire risk high

Fire officials are on high alert and so should the rest of the local population.

Fire officials are on high alert and so should the rest of the local population.

Wildfire season continues to hold the Salmon Arm Zone of the Kamloops Fire Centre firmly in its grip.

“From altitude 1,000 metres and below to valley bottoms, we’re in extreme or high danger class,” said fire protection officer Larry Osachoff. “Campfires are the only thing we’re permitting and we definitely want people to be cautious.”

Burning debris piles and industrial burning are strictly prohibited at this time and the prohibition will not be lifted until the area experiences significant rainfall.

“The entire province is just sitting on edge,” he says, noting that while fire season was late in starting, thanks to heavy spring and early summer rains, there has been almost no precipitation in September – just four mm since Sept. 11 and another .6 mm Monday night. “Since Sept. 1, the Salmon Arm station has only seen one day of moderate danger class – all the rest have been extreme.”

Osachoff says fire officials are watching the situation very closely.

One fire near Enderby was in mop-up stage Friday, after being spotted and reported the previous day.

It was  the result of a lightning strike in August.

“We’re still picking up the occasional fire from the lightning storm that went through Aug. 28,” says Osachoff. “That’s a fair length of time for fires to hold over and indicates the dryness of the forests.”

Luckily, there has been very little wind and, with cooler nights, the fires have failed to grow to a substantial size.”

“We’ve been fortunate, but if we get a wind, different story,” he says.

Kamloops Fire Information officer Michaela Swan says the Wildfire Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources has kept additional fire crews and air tankers on hand to deal with the extended fire season.

There have been 412 fires in the Kamloops Fire Centre with 32 occurring in the Salmon Arm Zone – 20 were caused by lightning and 12 are believed to have been caused by human activity of some kind.

Osachoff says most people have got the message that campfires should be no greater than a half-metre wide and a half-metre high.

Those who haven’t can expect a visit from the Fire Protection Branch and anything from a warning to a fine, depending on the circumstances.

Start a wildfire and you could be stuck with firefighting costs and possibly jail time.

Anyone who sees a wildfire or someone burning illegally, should call 1-800-663-5555 or *555 on their cell phones.

“We need a good rain, there’s no question about it. We need the moisture in the ground and then people can get on with their fall clean-up,” he says.

Fire protection officer Kirk Hughes notes a number of small plots on the forestry road behind the Silver Creek firehall will be burned between Oct. 1 and 15  in support of a fire investigation course that is being put on for 25 Korean Forest Service staff.

The timing of the burning will be dependant on weather conditions.

**Correction. The original version of the story did not specify that all campfires should be no greater than a half-metre wide and a half-metre high. Campers should be aware of this limitation.