Controlled burn on Osoyoos Indian Band land didn’t pose fire threat

By on April 9, 2014
Fires burn at night with an eerie glow through thick smoke on the east side of Osoyoos Lake. The fires were a controlled burn by the Osoyoos Indian Band to remove excess flammable plant material and to improve the habitat for wildlife. (Richard McGuire photo)

Fires burn at night with an eerie glow through thick smoke on the east side of Osoyoos Lake. The fires were a controlled burn by the Osoyoos Indian Band to remove excess flammable plant material and to improve the habitat for wildlife. (Richard McGuire photo)

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.”

RICHARD McGUIRE

Osoyoos Times

Fires burning east of Osoyoos Lake in a controlled burn make an eerie glow at night, although only smoke was visible during the day. This image was taken from across Osoyoos Lake using a long lens. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Fires burning east of Osoyoos Lake in a controlled burn make an eerie glow at night, although only smoke was visible during the day. This image was taken from across Osoyoos Lake using a long lens. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Fires east of Osoyoos Lake make an eerie glow at night. The fire is a prescribed burn being conducted by the Osoyoos Indian Band for habitat maintenance. (Richard McGuire photo)

Fires east of Osoyoos Lake make an eerie glow at night. The fire is a prescribed burn being conducted by the Osoyoos Indian Band for habitat maintenance. (Richard McGuire photo)

Fires east of Osoyoos Lake make an eerie glow at night. The fire is a prescribed burn being conducted by the Osoyoos Indian Band for habitat maintenance. (Richard McGuire photo)

Fires east of Osoyoos Lake make an eerie glow at night. The fire is a prescribed burn being conducted by the Osoyoos Indian Band for habitat maintenance. (Richard McGuire photo)

 

Penticton photographer Stephen Hancock took this nighttime photo of the controlled burn from across the lake. Using long exposures, he took seven different images, which he stitched together using software to make a panorama. The long exposure captures the stars of the Milky Way. (Stephen Hancock Photography)

Penticton photographer Stephen Hancock took this nighttime photo of the controlled burn from across the lake. Using long exposures, he took seven different images, which he stitched together using software to make a panorama. The long exposure captures the stars of the Milky Way. (Stephen Hancock Photography)

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Ken Davies

    April 10, 2014 at 8:01 am

    I’m amazed that the OIB can burn an entire mountainside and envelope our town in a thick veil of smoke in the name of conservation? I’m directed to avoid walking off the fairway on our golf course and consider my ‘carbon footprint’ when taking a commercial flight or driving my car, yet the OIB can taint our air with ash and carbon dioxide from a massive ‘prescribed burn’.

  2. Les Dewar

    April 10, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    I agree with Ken Davies! I have severe asthma and was getting quite concerned that I might end up in emergency. Thankfully the wind kept the smoke away from where I live. However, I’m sure it affected other people’s breathing. This kind of thing should not be allowed. There are places in the world where you cannot even have a fireplace, never mind deliberately starting a fire of that size. Ridiculous!

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