The Kamloops Fire Centre received more than 100 reports of smoke following a lightning storm that tracked through the Okanagan last Thursday.
The lightning storm came through the area with a significant amount of precipitation so most of the fires were spot size. Kayla Pepper, fire information officer at the Kamloops Fire Centre, said initial three-person attack crews supported by birddog aircraft performed assessments of the reports. They were able to keep the fires to spot size so they did not become interface threats. Reports of fire caused by the lightning strikes came from the Brenda Mines and Summerland/Princeton Road area, North Beach Road area several kilometres north of Summerland and over to Cawston.
“We are fortunate it wasn’t dry lightning and the storm came with significant amounts of precipitation,” said Pepper.
The fire information officer said the recent storm activity serves as a reminder to the public to be diligent in preventing human-caused fires to permit the Wildfire Management Branch to allocate resources to naturally occurring wildfires. Pepper said so far this year there have been 88 wildfires in the Kamloops Fire Centre, last year there were 77 fires reported at this time. The first significant of those in the Okanagan was at Seclusion Bay north of Summerland, which occurred on June 20 last year. By the first half of August the costs for fighting wildfires in B.C. was $4 million over budget because of a combination of record-breaking dry conditions in July and lightning storms in the Cariboo region.
“We still want to remind people to be extra vigilant as 68 of the 88 wildfires reported so far this year have been person caused. All of those are preventable, and seeing the lightning come through that we did last week, we want to make sure all our resources are dedicated to those fires and not extinguishing person-caused fires,” said Pepper.
Currently the fire danger rating in Penticton is moderate and the Osoyoos area is rated high due to the lower precipitation they have received.
Summerland fire chief Glenn Noble reminds that people still need to be responsible, and those who are deemed guilty in causing a wildfire can be held liable for the costs in fighting it. He said campers need to remember to extinguish their campfires before leaving their site.
“If everyone’s responsible, we shouldn’t have any problems,” said Noble.
As of last July, amendments to the Wildfire Act regulations require those who have campfires at both provincial and private campsites to keep a hand tool, such as a shovel, or at least eight litres of water nearby to properly extinguish a fire. Campfires can also not be larger than 0.5 metres by 0.5 metres. Failure to follow the regulations can result in a $345 fine. Anyone who causes damage to Crown forest or grass land through arson or recklessness can be fined up to $1 million or spend up to three years in prison.
Report a wildfire or unattended campfire by calling *5555 on your cell phone or toll-free 1-800 663-5555. For the latest information on current wildfire activity, burning restrictions, road closures and air quality advisories, go to www.bcforestfireinfo.gov.bc.ca.