Bystanders extinguished grass fire

Cigarette butt likely the cause and fire could have been much worse

Members of 100 Mile House Fire-Rescue suspect a cigarette butt sparked a grass fire alongside Highway 97 near 103 Mile on Aug. 15. Paul Donnelly

Members of 100 Mile House Fire-Rescue suspect a cigarette butt sparked a grass fire alongside Highway 97 near 103 Mile on Aug. 15. Paul Donnelly

Gaven Crites

Free Press

Two bystanders travelling through the 100 Mile House area were the first responders to a fire that flared in waist-high grass alongside Highway 97 at the top of the hill near 103 Mile on Aug. 15.

Had it not been for their quick work, the fire would have likely spread quickly, says 100 Mile House fire chief Darrel Blades.

“If those guys didn’t knock it down, it would have been worse. It would have continued growing.”

Blades and two other members of 100 Mile House Fire-Rescue responded to the call around 1 p.m. and found two men – Kris Dawson and Ryan Labby, employees of Aerial Contractors Ltd. – had mostly put the fire out, using a portable water pack and a shovel they had stored in their truck.

The pair was driving south on Highway 97 when they saw a truck pulled over ahead and large amounts of smoke in the air and fire near the road.

“We were glad to help and we weren’t going to let something like that go down,” Dawson says.

“We stopped the truck, threw the four-ways on and ran over and started containing it. Ryan had the shovel and I had the water pack.

“We started putting it out piece by piece. We finally got the last one out when the fire chief pulled up.”

Dawson estimates the size of the burn area at close to 70 by 10 feet.

“It was pretty smoky. It was really dry and I’m glad we got there when we did because it was getting quite windy and the flames were starting to take off on us.”

Because they work with power lines, Labby and Dawson have some previous fire safety training. Dawson, from Vernon, is a lineman and Labby, from Kamloops, is an apprentice.

“For a small grass fire, if a person has water and they can do it and they can do it safely, I don’t see anything wrong with them attempting (to put out a fire),” Blades says.

“But, they have to have the equipment and make sure it’s safe and not put themselves at risk.”

100 Mile House Fire-Rescue members found a cigarette butt near the fire’s point of origin.

“It appears to be a cigarette, but we can’t tell 100 per cent and guarantee [that’s the cause of the fire],” Blades says, adding multiple fires in the area have started that way in the past.

“I would advise people not to discard smoking materials from their vehicles. They don’t know where it’s going to land, and it’s dry along the highways.”