Wildfires burn to north and south; campfires banned

By on July 23, 2014
A fire and thick smoke enshroud vegetation off Old Richter Pass Road Wednesday afternoon, July 9. The fire was believed to have been started with a cigarette. (Richard McGuire photo)

A fire and thick smoke enshroud vegetation off Old Richter Pass Road Wednesday afternoon, July 9. The fire was believed to have been started with a cigarette. (Richard McGuire photo)

With major wildfires burning north and south of Osoyoos and the fire danger rating at times extreme, campfires have been temporarily banned throughout the Kamloops Fire Centre area.

That ban covers all B.C. parks, Crown and private lands, but it doesn’t apply within the boundaries of local governments that have forest fire prevention bylaws and are serviced by a fire department.

Nonetheless, the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) has put a similar ban in place affecting all parts of the regional district including Osoyoos, Oliver and other municipalities.

Three significant fires have been burning in the RDOS since last week and led to evacuation alerts for two of those.

Additionally, a large wildfire continues to burn near West Kelowna and a massive wildfire is burning in Washington State, sending a smoke haze over Osoyoos.

The fire in Okanogan County, Wa., at about 100,000 hectares, is the largest in the state’s history.

As of Monday evening, a fire near Apex Mountain west of Penticton covered 345 hectares and was 75 per cent contained. An evacuation alert remains in effect for about 13 previously identified properties.

By Thursday afternoon, more than 35 fire fighters, five helicopters and heavy equipment were involved in battling the Apex fire, the Wildfire Management Branch reported. That fire was first reported on Tuesday, July 15 and is suspected to be human caused.

By Sunday evening, 15 firefighters were working and aircraft were no longer on the scene.

Another fire at Jura, southeast of Missezula Lake and north of Princeton, covered 460 hectares as of Monday afternoon.

That fire was listed as 80 per cent contained by Monday afternoon. The Jura fire was discovered on Wednesday, July 16. The cause of this fire is under investigation.

Last week an evacuation alert was in place for 606 properties. This alert was being reassessed daily.

As of Sunday morning, there were 27 firefighters, four helicopters, nine pieces of heavy equipment fighting the Jura fire and air tankers were being employed as needed.

Another fire at Boot Hill (Nickelplate) was recalculated to measure an estimated 101 hectares with 60 per cent contained as of Monday evening.

This fire is not considered an interface fire and no evacuation alerts were issued. The Boot Hill fire is believed to have been caused by lightning.

Farther north, a 400-hectare fire at Smith Creek near West Kelowna was burning aggressively on Friday morning. That fire was first reported on Thursday.

By Monday evening, the fire was down to 260 hectares and was 60 per cent contained.

An evacuation order was issued by the Central Okanagan Regional District, but has since been lifted for many areas.

On Friday morning, the Kamloops Fire Centre reported 75 firefighters, two helicopters and seven air tankers were working to combat the fire along with local fire departments.

By Monday evening, 80 firefighters and 33 support personnel were at the Smith Creek fire along with five helicopters, two water tenders and two dozers.

The cause of the Smith Creek fire is still under investigation.

In addition to the campfire ban, open burning was already banned throughout the Kamloops Fire Centre. The ban applies to open fires of any size, fires with a burn registration number, industrial burning, fireworks, tiki torches, sky lanterns and burning barrels.

The prohibition does not apply to cooking stoves that use gas, propane or briquettes or to a portable campfire apparatus with a CSA or UCL rating that uses briquettes, liquid or gaseous fuel, as long as the height of the flame is less than 15 centimetres, the Wildfire Management Branch says.

Anyone found violating the ban, including campfires, may be issued a ticket up to $345. Anyone causing a wildfire through arson or recklessness may be fined up to $1 million, spend up to three years in prison and be held accountable for associated firefighting costs.

As of early last week, the Wildfire Management Branch had responded to 26 wildfires in the Kamloops Fire Centre area, 19 of which were lightning caused.

Three recent fires west of Osoyoos are all believed to be human caused.

“Crews have been required to respond to seven fires that have been person caused and therefore preventable,” the fire centre said in a news release which referred to the entire Kamloops Fire Centre area. “These wildfires divert resources from responding to other critical fires.”

Most of the wildfires have been in the western and southern parts of the Kamloops Fire Centre area.

The fire danger rating was either high or extreme in most of the Kamloops Fire Centre area last week and the Osoyoos area was classed as extreme.

With cooler temperatures, the fire danger rating was reduced by Sunday so that the risk is now moderate with pockets of high throughout the Kamloops Fire Centre area.

To report a violation of the campfire ban within the Kamloops Fire Centre, call 1-844-NRO-TIPS (1-844-676-8477). To report a wildfire or unattended campfire, phone 1-800-663-5555 or #5555 on your cellphone.

RICHARD McGUIRE

Osoyoos Times

 

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