The Okanagan Forest Task Force (OFTF) extinguished eight fires throughout the weekend in several popular backcountry spots, while on patrol looking for illegal dumpsites.
According to OFTF spokesperson Kane Blake, the group cancelled its last cleanup due to the dry conditions in the backcountry and he said they didn’t want to accidentally start a fire with sparks from dragging metal parts out of forests.
But several of the group’s members still came together over the weekend and unfortunately spotted a number of abandoned campfires, a concern for Blake who emphasized the danger as the area is still at a risk for a wildfire.
“Quite often, we’ll come up to a party and just say ‘please make sure you clean it all up when you’re done so we have a clean forest’. Most people are more than happy to clean up after themselves,” Blake said.
“Some will say yes because we’re there and then leave without picking up their mess. But we’re in fire season, and we’re known for our fires now… and we’re trying to prevent more forest fires from happening.”
But when people aren’t mindful and leave not only their trash but also smouldering fires, then it doesn’t help the situation, Blake said.
Most of those unattended fires tend to be in areas where a lot of illegal dumping happens: Postill, Beaver Lake, and Gillard. Blake said this is because those places are forested enough to provide the solitude the backcountry gives without having to drive out of town for very long.
But unattended fires in those areas can become dangerous as they are close to residential areas.
“We just don’t want another situation like what’s going on in Penticton, where the wind’s going to pick up and we’re going to have a forest fire in our backcountry,” he said.
The Christie Mountain wildfire, which was discovered on Aug. 18, forced the evacuation of more than 300 homes.
“Not to mention, there are a lot of homes in those areas. Postill, there are a lot of homes in that area. Beaver Lake Road, there is a lodge, there are numerous lodges up there and people living in them year-round,” said Blake.
He also had a word for those who are planning to venture out to local backcountry areas over the long weekend.
“It’d be great if people use the bush responsibly. If you’re going to be in the bush, please be responsible, don’t leave your garbage and don’t have raging fires right now.”