A view of the Snowy Mountain Fire from the backyard of a Cawston home. (Submitted)

Cawston area director talks Snowy Mountain wildfire

George Bush, Area B director, talks to the Review about his thoughts on the Snowy Mountain fire

  • Aug. 2, 2018 1:29 p.m.

George Bush, director for the Cawston area, said in his more than six decades living in the Similkameen, he’s never seen an out-of-control wildfire burn so close to home.

The Snowy Mountain fire was sparked by a lightning storm that blew through the area on July 17. The fire has since grown to more than 6,594 hectares in size. BC Wildfire did not action the fire until July 29 when 20 firefighters and several helicopters started actioning the fire.

Related: Update: Five homes evacuated due to increased activity at Snowy Mountain wildfire

Bush declined to comment about BC Wildfire’s choice not to action the fire prior to July 29.

“I know everyone is critical, but everybody has a different opinion whether it’s good or bad. I don’t really have an opinion,” he said Thursday during a break at the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen meeting, adding, “There are places up there so blown down with old dead timber nothing can get through it not even wildlife.”

A cold front and high winds came through the area during the night Wednesday, creating conditions that allowed for a downdraft reaching between 400 to 800 metres downslope on the east flank on the Highway 3 – Cawston side.

A fire guard was breached, causing the Lower Similkameen Indian Band to evacuate five properties on Susap Creek Road. The evacuation order impacts eight families.

The RDOS issued an evacuation alert for 384 property parcels within the Village of Keremeos and 481 properties in the rural Keremeos and Cawston areas are still in effect. An evacuation alert for all Crown Land, including grazing areas, and the Snowy Protected Area was issued by RDOS late Wednesday.

Bush said he hadn’t heard of any spot fires yet.

“I have confidence in BC Wildfire. There are a lot of people working this fire,” he said. “One thing we’re really concerned of is if the wind changes to the south. That could cause a lot of problems.”

Ash, and other fire debris, some still burning, have been reported falling from the high elevation on properties all around Keremeos and Cawston as far north as Upper Bench Road.

BC Wildfire is monitoring fire activity in the area closely. Crews are on in the evening patrolling for spot fires along with a three-person crew from Keremeos Volunteer Fire Department.

Related: Keremeos firefighters working night patrols as Snowy Mountain fire rains ash, embers

BC Wildfire told the Review previously they don’t want to discourage anyone from reporting wildfires, but stated the *5555 line is meant for residents to report when they believe they are seeing a new wildfire that the BC Wildfire Service has not seen or responded to yet.

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