Human-caused fires keep crews hopping last week

Cigarette butts confirmed as one cause while fire crews chase fires in 24 hour stretch in Lake Country

Lake Country firefighters were kept busy last week, responding to a number of fires in the community and all of them were caused by humans in one way or another.

During a 24 hour stretch from last Wednesday until Thursday fire crews had to respond to four fires, all of which were caused by man and at least one of which was caused by a cigarette butt mindlessly thrown onto the ground.

“At this point in time people have to realize—and I think the majority of people do get it—that the Okanagan weather has come early,” said Lake Country Fire Department deputy fire chief Brent Penner. “June is usually monsoon season but we’re not there. Things are a high risk level right now and if we don’t get some substantial rain it’s going to get worse.”

While all four fires were caused my humans, Penner said their investigations couldn’t pinpoint the exact cause in three of the four fires except to confirm they were caused by humans, either sparks from a vehicle, lawnmover or other machinery, or smokers not taking care to properly extinguish their cigarette in an ashtray.

“I know it sounds pretty darn obvious, but cigarettes and long dry grass and weeds don’t get along,” he said.

Things took off for the Lake Country Fire Department on Wednesday just after 1 p.m. when they responded to a grass fire at the three-way intersection of Woodsdale, Lodge and Oyama Roads where a grass fire that had started at about 20 feet by 20 feet, had grown in size and was threatening an outbuilding in the yard of a nearby residence in the Clearwater subdivision.

“The guys did a great job, they knocked the leading edge of the fire down in about three minutes and still had a fire about the length of a football field because the wind took it through the dry grass and moved it very quickly,” said Penner. “When you think about how dry the grass is, it doesn’t take much. The slightest amount of wind will really push it.”

Sixteen firefighters responded to the blaze and were digging a fire guard by hand around the blaze, making sure it couldn’t escape, and digging out hot spots when another call came in, this time on Carr’s Landing Road.

Luckily the first person on scene to that blaze was a member of the Ellison volunteer fire department and he was able to extinguish the fire which had started in a ditch next to Carr’s Landing Road, another human-caused blaze.

Later Wednesday evening fire crews were called to Juniper Cove Road where another blaze was burning in a heavily wooded area that was difficult to access and was actually outside of the Lake Country fire protection area. The LCFD called in the Kamloops Fire Centre who sent four air tankers and a helicopter to put the 1.3 hectare blaze out.

The forest service put the cause as humans in that fire as well.

With B.C. forestry crews still mopping up that fire the next morning, the Lake Country department was called to another man-caused fire, this time in Oyama where an employee of a business had tossed a cigarette butt into the ground and it didn’t take long for the embers to catch on in the long, dry grass. Employees were able to extinguish it with on site fire extinguishers and a hose.

In the end Penner said all of the fires highlighted just how dry it is and he urged people to take caution with conditions expected to get even drier in the coming months.