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Recent West Kelowna fires caused by people

Two recent wildfires in West Kelowna, on Mount Boucherie and in the Smith Creek neighbourhood, were caused by people. - Jennifer Smith/Capital News
Two recent wildfires in West Kelowna, on Mount Boucherie and in the Smith Creek neighbourhood, were caused by people.
— image credit: Jennifer Smith/Capital News

Less than a week ago, West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater and Fire Chief Wayne Schnitzler offered several wildfire prevention tips through a joint press release.

"Human-caused fires are much more common than naturally occurring fires and completely preventable too," said Schnitzler, adding the expected hot weather would increase the risk of wildfires.

Days later the district was hit with two significant wildfires, which both took dozens of firefighters and overnight efforts to extinguish.

According to Schnitzler, Tuesday afternoon's blaze on Mount Boucherie was likely human-caused.

"The investigators searched the area and there's nothing to say that it was naturally caused," said Schnitzler

"But to pinpoint exactly what that was—there's no evidence there. The most we can say is human-caused and undetermined at this point."

The Mount Boucherie fire was started near a trail and first reported just after 3 p.m. Tuesday.

West Kelowna firefighters began working on what was initially a two-hectare brush fire.

Soon after, helicopters began dropping buckets of water and airplanes dropped fire retardant on the blaze, which grew to about 4.24 hectares.

Forty-eight firefighters, 17 pieces of fire apparatus and four aircraft worked late hours to control the brush fire.

Crews were in the mop-up stage by Wednesday morning, putting out hot spots and reinforcing fire guards.

Findlater was in his office when he got the call about the Mount Boucherie fire Tuesday.

He said he was impressed by the immediate firefighting response.

"(I) just watched those bombers work, and the artistry of those pilots where they laid down the retardant in a nice, neat box around it," said Findlater.

"They did a fantastic job."

He said the last notable fire on Mount Boucherie occurred in 1992.

"Some kids were playing with matches and that fire went up and over and they evacuated Lakeview Heights."

Some residents who have lived in Lakeview Heights for decades were calling the mayor Tuesday, fearing they might have to once again evacuate 22 years later.

"Once you've evacuated, once you go through that experience in your life, your life isn't quite the same," said Findlater, who was evacuated twice during the Glenrosa wildfire in 2009.

Earlier in the week, an unattended campfire started a forest fire in Smith Creek.

The campfire was located on private property in the bush area above the residential area of a Smith Creek subdivision.

Sparks escaped from the main fire in the late evening of a day that saw 38-degree weather. They burned unnoticed until after dark and created two spot fires approximately 300 metres apart.

Twenty-one members of West Kelowna Fire Rescue were assisted by Peachland Fire Rescue and a BC Forest Service Attack Crew to knock down the fire in an overnight effort.

Since Wednesday afternoon there has been a campfire ban in place for West Kelowna, Lake Country, Peachland and the Central Okanagan east and west electoral areas.

Those who disobey the ban could be handed a $500 fine, plus the cost of suppression.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

Twitter: @PatersonWade

 

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