New human-caused wildfire east of Osoyoos Lake angers mayor, residents

By on April 16, 2014

 

Fire burns on the mountain east of Osoyoos Lake sending up smoke. (Richard McGuire photo)

Fire burns on the mountain east of Osoyoos Lake sending up smoke. (Richard McGuire photo)

The provincial wildfire management branch is currently investigating the cause of a wildfire that started Friday on Osoyoos Indian Band land northeast of Osoyoos.

As of Monday, the fire covered 80 hectares and 23 firefighters and a helicopter were busy trying to control it, said Kayla Pepper, a spokesperson at the Kamloops Fire Centre.

The recent fire, she stressed, is separate from a prescribed burn conducted by OIB member Aaron Stelkia and which was authorized.

“We know it is not related to the prescribed burn that has been happening since April 1,” Pepper said. “This is a completely separate fire.”

The wildfire, she added, is suspected to be human caused. Pepper was unable to say how far apart the two fires were.

“I know they are fairly close,” she said. “They’re in the same area so people for both Osoyoos and Oliver were seeing smoke from both.”

Although the wildfire management branch was notified before the prescribed burn, its help was not requested.

On Friday, however, when the wildfire took off, the band requested provincial assistance, Pepper said.

No structures were threatened, but firefighters were working to protect a power line, she said.

Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells expressed frustration with the continuing fire situation when he spoke at a volunteer appreciation lunch at the Sonora Community Centre on Saturday.

“Believe me, it’s driving council as crazy as it is everyone else,” he said.

Council members have been receiving numerous calls from citizens upset with the smoke and some experiencing respiratory problems, he said.

Osoyoos has no jurisdiction over the land where the fires are occurring, but Wells said he spoke Sunday morning with OIB Chief Clarence Louie and a provincial official. They also told him the weekend’s fire was not related to the earlier prescribed burn and wasn’t authorized.

Wells said there should be better communication to inform citizens about what is going on with these fires.

“I’m getting calls from people getting angry and I can tell from the tone of their voice,” he said. “When they get angry, I get angry.”

Wells said he shares their frustration and the prescribed fire on OIB land has been causing members of the public to complain for more than two weeks.

Firefighters are working on the southwest side of the fire, Pepper said, attempting to clear out brush that allows the fire to spread.

In some areas they are trying to steer it toward natural features such as the rocky areas to the east of the fire.

The fire continues to flare up when winds increase, she added.

There have been 10 new wildfires in the Kamloops Fire Centre area since Friday, Pepper said, and all are human caused.

The public is asked to be safe and responsible with open burning.

RICHARD McGUIRE

Osoyoos Times

 

 

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