Burnt grass shows just how close the Snowy Mountain wildfire came to claiming this person’s home. With the assistance of firefighters, this homeowner’s property was spared. Jordyn Thomson/Western News

New reporter jumps right into wildfire season

Jordyn Thomson recounts her helicopter tour in September with BC Wildfire Service

My time at the Western News in 2018 was brief, having only joined the team mid-August, but I did have the opportunity to cover an especially important story that I’d like to highlight at this year’s end.

BC Wildfire Services (BCWS) reached out and invited me on a helicopter tour of some of the ongoing wildfires in early September. Their communications team wanted to use the opportunity to show off some of the wins they had this season with some of the larger wildfires in the area, which led to my story ‘Myths and facts about fighting B.C. wildfires’ in our Sept. 5 edition.

Related: Myths and facts about fighting B.C. wildfires

I jumped at the chance to cover this — and not just because I had never been in a helicopter before — but because at this time, we were just coming down from a hellish summer that saw the skies turn to grey and brown and the hillsides swallowed by flames. Those here in the summer will remember the numerous air quality warnings that were issued, the highway closures and evacuations, and flames that seemed to lick at every corner of the region.

Steep and loose terrain challenged crews as they battled the Snowy Mountain Wildfire. The blaze covered 17,670 hectares and took two months to control. Jordyn Thomson/Western News

The team first took me over one of the more notorious fires in the region, the Snowy Mountain wildfire. This blaze began July 17, is still on the wildfires of note list and spans 19,226 hectares, challenging crews with steep and treacherous terrains.

Stephen Kada, an Australia-native who worked as a wildfire information officer with BCWS over the summer, explained that much of their efforts of fire suppression on Snowy Mountain involved helicopters making bucket drops. Depending on the distance to the nearest water source, these helicopters made 50 to 60 drops a day.

Related: Wildfire mitigation work helps restore sheep habitat in South Okanagan

We toured above the Old Tom Creek wildfire, which spanned 1,380 hectares and began on Aug. 15. As of Sept. 13, BCWS listed the Old Tom Creek wildfire as under control, again meaning that this battle was ongoing for nearly a month. It should be mentioned that throughout the wildfire season in B.C., firefighters worked shifts of two weeks on and three days off, usually putting in more than 12 hours per day.

The Old Tom Creek wildfire began on July 15 and took nearly one month to control. It spanned 1,380 hectares. Jordyn Thomson/Western News

Related: Caution urged as people head back into wildfire affected areas in B.C.

Finally our tour took us over the Cool Creek wildfire, which started on Aug. 15 and spanned 13,626 hectares. At the time, this fire was still classified as out of control and it’s widespread reaches challenged teams.

As of Sept. 16, BCWS listed the Cool Creek Wildfire under control, meaning it also took crews a month to all-but extinguish this blaze. For those curious, all three of these wildfires were started by lightning.

So in this area alone, crews had to battle not one, not two, but three ongoing wildfires at the same time. I cannot imagine the stress and pressure they must have felt, as our only line of defence from fire sweeping into communities and destroying homes and livelihoods.

At the time of this helicopter tour, the Cool Creek wildfire was still listed as out of control by BCWS. This fire burned for nearly a month and spanned 13,626 hectares. Jordyn Thomson/Western News

Enough cannot be said about all the courageous firefighters who volunteered their time and put their safety on the line to fight these fires. Thousands of people from dozens of organizations (local, provincial, national and international) came together to help this province in a time of crisis, and to them we are indebted.

So take a moment this holiday season to remember what this area looked like in the summer months, and be thankful these brave men and women answered the call in our time of need. And I’m sure they will be around next summer to answer the call when the inevitable wildfire season begins again.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
JordynThomson 
Send Jordyn Thomson an email.
Like the Western News on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Gas leak on Penticton’s South Main Street delays motorists on Friday

A detour is being set up on Parkview Street to avoid the Lee Avenue and Crescent Hill intersection

Penticton RCMP reviewing sexual assault claims

Thirty-eight per cent of the sexual assault reports in 2018 were deemed “unfounded” by RCMP

Prolific offender to return to Penticton court Monday for bail hearing

Lloyd John Baptiste was arrested for domestic-related offences in July this year

Penticton and Salmon Arm will duke it out tonight for division lead

Penticton Vees and Salmon Arm Silverbacks meet in Penticton tonight for Interior Division lead

Penticton Museum hosting Brown Bag Lecture

Wildlife and Recreation is the topic of the next Penticton Museum Brown Bag Lecture Series

VIDEO: Disney Plus adds disclaimer about racist stereotypes

Disney’s disclaimer is a good way to begin discussion about the larger issue of racism

Advertising restrictions frustrate Salmon Arm cannabis retailers

Retail prices off-putting to some, but businesses finding supportive clientele

New case of vaping-related illness in Quebec brings national total to 8

Quebec health minister considering tightening the rules around vaping products

Greens to vote against Liberal throne speech unless carbon targets toughened: May

Green leader Elizabeth May and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met Friday, discussing common ground

Kelowna mayor apologizes for initial reaction to sexual assault statistics

The mayor issued the statement after he came under heavy fire from a sexual assault survivor

First Nations ‘optimistic’ about road upgrades after Horgan visits site of fatal bus crash

Premier travelled Bamfield Main road, where bus flipped last September and two students were killed

Morning Start: The man who invented the Pringles can was buried in one

Your morning start for Friday, November 15, 2019

Most Read