Fire crews jumped on a grassfire just south of Lakehill Road (at the turnoff to Kaleden) on Highway 97 on Tuesday morning. Kristi Patton/Western News

Firefighters respond to roadside brush fire

Fire next to Highway 97 being brought under control.

B.C. Wildfire, along with Kaleden and Penticton Indian Band firefighting crews, had to deal with a wildfire burning up a hillside next to Hwy. 97, just south of Lakehill Road turnoff into Kaleden Tuesday morning.

A nearby resident saw the blaze and called it in.

“I turned around here and smoke was just pouring up. I went back in and grabbed the phone and called the fire department,” she said. “It shot up over here, and then it was shooting that way. Once it gets down those little gullies, you can’t get at it. The guys can’t even get at it.”

Kaleden fire chief Denis Gaudry said the fire was about of a tenth of a hectare in size when they arrived.

“There was open flame around the perimeter. Flame height was probably less than a metre, which is rank 2 … beginning of rank 3.” said Gaudry. “We’re lucky there was no wind. We were able to stop the spread by simply applying water to it.”

Gaudry said he doesn’t know what the cause is yet, but the fire started next to the highway.

“It wasn’t lightning, it was some sort of person-caused,” said Gaudry.

Forestry was also called on to help, providing ground crews and helicopter support, which made several drops on the fire with a Bambi bucket.

“The fire is actually on Penticton Indian Band land, so we just knocked it down and wanted to get a handle on it,” said Gaudry, adding that at its maximum, the fire covered about a third of a hectare.

“We’ve knocked the perimeter down, forestry is putting a hand guard line around it. They and PIB will be mopping it up,” said Gaudry. “It is outside of Kaleden’s area, so we are returning to our jurisdiction to be ready for the next one.”

Penticton Indian Band fire chief Barry Phillip credited the amount of manpower and equipment that quickly came on the scene to get control of the fire. Just above the hill, there is a single residence.

“It was pretty scary for him. I was talking to him and he said he had no idea what to grab, or what was valuable in that moment when he noticed the fire,” said Phillip. “He did not immediately have to evacuate the area, however, the fire did come about 100 yards away from his home. It was really amazing to see how fast everyone came together to knock this down.”

On July 4, 2017, Kaleden experienced a wildfire that destroyed a home and outbuildings, along with forcing a partial evacuation of the small community.


Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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