Posted on 15 August 2010 by admin
OSOYOOS TIMES-August 4, 2010
By Paul Everest – Osoyoos Times
As flames devoured sagebrush dangerously close to her property, Mahin Chekarnia’s husband worked with his backhoe to create a ditch and fire barrier around the couple’s home which overlooks Spotted Lake, west of Osoyoos.
A wildfire that broke out in the Spotted Lake area at about 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 2 burned 40.2 hectares and required the B.C. Forest Service to deploy three air tankers, four helicopters, two spotter planes and 40 firefighters to combat the blaze.
The fire started near Chekarnia’s home at 18255 Hwy. 3, just a little ways from where her driveway meets the roadway, and required the evacuation of a few residences in the area.
In addition to creating the fire break with the backhoe, Chekarnia, her husband and a family friend used garden hoses to wet down parts of the 13-hectare property to keep the flames from reaching her home.
Little of her land was damaged, aside from a fence bordering the property’s east side, but the slopes around Spotted Lake were devastated.
Thick brown smoke choked the area for hours and could be seen from downtown Osoyoos.
Even as the blaze surrounded her property to the east and southeast, Chekarnia said she and her husband never had plans to evacuate the home they have lived in for five years.
But the blaze did prompt what the Kamloops Fire Centre called a “tactical evacuation” of a few residences in the area.
Michaela Swan, a fire information officer with the centre, said in one case, a house on a hill was surrounded by flames and its occupants had to be evacuated by helicopter.
Three families also had to move their horses away from the fire.
The Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen established an operations centre and shelter in the area for residents affected by the fire, she added.
By 7 p.m., Swan said, people were beginning to return to their homes.
Chekarnia, who called 911 after she saw the fire spreading near her home, watched the firefighting efforts from her driveway.
While Osoyoos RCMP held back traffic on Hwy. 3, as pockets of fire burned only a metre or two away from the road between Chekarnia’s home and the Spotted Lake observation centre, air tankers dropped loads of fire retardant on the hillsides and helicopters equipped with water buckets doused the flames around Spotted Lake.
Ground crews worked to deal with patches of fire burning near the highway.
The highway was closed intermittently from 4:30 to 7 p.m.
By 7 p.m. the fire was mostly contained.
It was declared 100 per cent contained on Aug. 3 and 25 firefighters were still mopping up hot spots that day.
The Osoyoos Volunteer Fire Department did not respond to the blaze as it is outside its coverage area, but Chief Rick Jones was at the scene in the evening to offer any assistance to the firefighting effort.
Swan said an investigation is underway into what caused the fire, but Chekarnia said a passerby told her he had seen a trucker toss a lit cigarette out of his truck at roughly the spot where the blaze started shortly before the fire began.
Cpl. Jason Bayda of the Osoyoos RCMP, who was at the scene directing traffic on Hwy. 3, said he also believed there was a good chance the fire was “human-caused.”
This fire grew quickly “due to strong winds and flashy fuels such as grass and sage brush,” Swan said.
Fire crews are busy around B.C. fighting dozens of fires and the centre had responded to 17 new fires on August 1 and 2, 13 of which were lightning- caused.
A spot fire broke out on July 30 on Anarchist Mountain on the night of July 30 due to lightning.
The Anarchist Mountain Volunteer Fire Department and the Forest Service were able to put the fire, which Swan said was under a hectare in size, out quickly.