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Controlled burn on Osoyoos Indian Band land didn’t pose fire threat
Fires burning on the east side of Osoyoos Lake last week alarmed some local residents, but were a prescribed burn and were always under control.
When thick smoke began blowing towards Osoyoos last Tuesday, some residents called 9-1-1, but fire authorities received advanced notice of the burn, which was on land belonging to the Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB).
Aaron Stelkia, the OIB member overseeing the burn, said it was being done to remove old combustible vegetation that could pose a fire hazard during drier months like August.
The new growth after a fire is good for wildlife, Stelkia said.
“I’ve been doing it all my life,” said Stelkia. “We do it every couple or three years since I was a kid.”
The burn depends on the weather, he said, noting last year it couldn’t be done because it was too damp. Current weather conditions are good for the burn, said Stelkia.
Stelkia added he stays near the burn at night and checks on it regularly during the day. The burn was not close to houses or livestock, he said.
Fires were still smoldering on Monday, but were much less intense than last week.
Stelkia said there could also be burning done near Oliver, depending on the weather.
Kayla Pepper, an information officer with the Wildfire Management Branch in Kamloops, said all local authorities, including fire departments, were notified ahead of time.
Although the province has worked with other First Nations in the past, it had no involvement in these fires, she said.
“They can request our help if the fire did escape, but at this time we haven’t been requested for any of our resources,” she said in an interview late last week.
A prescribed burn is used for fuel reduction and habitat restoration, Pepper said.
“Once a fire goes through, it makes room for those native plants to grow back and also makes the area a lot better for animals,” she said. “It grows back a lot lusher and cleans up the whole area. Fire is natural and when we have the opportunity to apply fire to these lands in a way that is controlled, it actually does more good because if a real wildfire does start, it will move more slowly through the area.”