Firefighters are reminding South Cariboo homeowners to be cautious with outdoor burning following multiple fires over the past week.
Over the weekend, firefighters were called out to four fires near 100 Mile sewage treatment plant on Canim-Hendrix Road, and a five-hectare blaze on Resort Road between Canim and Hawkins lakes. Late last week, the Forest Grove volunteer fire department responded to two back-to-back fires that got away from homeowners, while the 108 Mile Ranch volunteer fire department was also called out to assist another fire at 105 Mile. There were also three fires in the Clinton area Tuesday.
While some of the fires are still under investigation, most are suspected to be human-caused.
Shannon Wagner, chief of the Forest Grove Volunteer Fire Department, urged homeowners to have a permit and check the venting index before burning after two back-to-back fires got away from residents in her area last Thursday. Homeowners should also have a pail of sand, shovel, rake and access to a good flow of water from an outdoor tap nearby. Despite the snow on the ground, Wagner noted the heavy grasses and the trees are “deceptive.”
“It’s sopping wet underneath but in the trees and grass, it’s tinder dry,” Wagner said. “If that grass catches and ends up candling in the trees we’re going south pretty quick.”
In one of the cases in Forest Grove Thursday, the fire had spread to some trees on the ground and could have gone “really bad” if the wind had picked up, she said. Sand would have helped to snuff it out quickly.
Meanwhile, 14 members of the BC Wildfire Service were called in to help battle the fire on the Resort Road, after it grew from two hectares to five hectares within a couple of hours Saturday.
Black smoke from that fire, initially fought by the Canim Lake Band Volunteer Fire Department and Hawkins Lake Volunteer Firefighter Association, could be seen as far away as Forest Grove. It had been contained by Monday morning.
However, the situation prompted Cariboo Regional District Chair Margo Wagner to call for a fire ban to make people more aware of the tinder-dry conditions across the region. She noted even a Category 3 ban would make people “more aware to be really careful.”
Although the BC Wildfire Service told her it doesn’t typically deal with grass fires, which are the bulk of the fires that are happening in the South Cariboo, it is keeping tabs on the situation. “They’re keeping a really close eye on it,” she said.
The CRD chair added part of the problem is a lot of new people are moving into the area from other parts of B.C. and may not realize they should not be burning at this time. “It’s going to be a learning curve,” she said.
The multiple fires are leading to more vigilance across the community. On Tuesday, firefighters responded to another fire in Forest Grove, but it turned out to be a false alarm. The property owner was burning wood that was producing large quantities of smoke, making the fire look worse than it was, 100 Mile Fire Rescue Chief Roger Hollander said.
He noted the man was in possession of a proper permit for the activity. 100 Mile Fire Rescue has already responded to well over 100 calls so far this year, he added, so they take every report seriously.
Hollander reminds the community to be vigilant when burning and have the proper permits for their fire, whether it’s a campfire or slash pile.
In Clinton, five BC Wildfire personnel and a water tender were on scene Tuesday to battle a 0.1-hectare fire north of town, which is now believed to be under control. It is suspected to be a human-caused fire, but it is under investigation. A fire north of Clinton was out by the time firefighters arrived while the Clinton Volunteer Fire Department dealt with a fire south of town.
Forest Grove chief Wagner urged people to be alert if a fire looks to be getting out of hand. “Do not hesitate. The minute you think it’s out of control, call 911,” she said.
This story has been updated to include details of the Clinton fires.