Carmen Weld/Black Press Digital Kelowna firefighters put the finishing touches on extinguishing one of several small grass fires in the Munson’s Pond area of Kelowna earlier this week.

Updated: West Kelowna fire chief downplays fear of fire bug

Conceding recent fires in area appear deliberately set, they don’t seem related says Jason Brolund

Update: July 5, 4:22 p.m.— West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund says the late night fire in the Campbell Road area of West Kelowna’s Casa Loma neighbourhood is now not considered suspicious.

In a news release issued Thursday afternoon, Brolund said a fire cause and determination investigation was completed Thursday and investigators now believe the cause was most likely electrical in nature.

“It is believed that two high voltage lines in the vicinity touching together produced sparks that led to the ignition of the fire,” said Brolund.

Original story: Despite several small, apparently deliberately set fires in West Kelowna and Kelowna in recent days, one of the region’s fire chiefs is downplaying assumptions that there’s a fire-bug on the loose.

Jason Brolund, whose firefighters responded to six small blazes set along a walking trail on Mt. Boucherie Monday, and then again to a grass fire late Wednesday night in the Campbell Road area of Casa Loma, said those two incidents and one where several small fires appear to have been deliberately set in the Munson’s Pond area of Kelowna this week do not appear related.

“At this point we have nothing to link them all,” said Brolund.

But he added he is concerned about any fires being deliberately set in the community.

Related story: Fundraiser started for victims of West Kelowna house fire

On Monday, West Kelowna Fire Rescue was inundated with calls after several plumes of smoke were seen over Mt. Boucherie.

Police briefly apprehended a man at the scene but said he was later released without charge. The RCMP is asking four hikers seen in the area to come forward as they may have information.

Earlier this week there were several reports of small fires in the Munson’s Pond area of Kelowna and firefighters had to put out three at one time on Wednesday afternoon.

Later that night, a grass fire described as being 50 feet by 50 feet, spread into a nearby large pine tree in an orchard in the Campbell Road area of Casa Loma in West Kelowna before firefighters arrived on scene and quickly extinguished it. A total of 11 firefighters using equipment from three different West Kelowna fire halls was used.

Three homes in the immediate area were protected by firefighters during the effort to douse the blaze. No damage to the any of the homes, and no injuries, were reported.

The cause of that fire is still under investigation and fire investigators were on scene Thursday.

“We are concerned about these fires,” said Brolund, saying it’s clear they were human caused.

In the meantime, RCMP, with support from the BC Wildfire Service, are continuing their investigation into a series of wildfires believed to have been deliberately set in the Okanagan Valley over the past four years.

In this time period, there were 29 wildfires reported in Naramata, Okanagan Falls, Osoyoos, Oliver, Penticton, Summerland and Lake Country (Map of fire locations). Evidence gathered during the course of the investigations into these fires have led investigators to believe they are connected and that the cause was determined to be arson.

In May 2018, the Southeast District RCMP Intentionally Set Wildfires Task Force was created in an effort to further the investigation into these wildfires and identify the person(s) responsible. Members of the task force are working in partnership with the BC Wildfire Service and other impacted stakeholders.

The Task Force has the ability to focus on all related historical and future wildfires, regardless of jurisdictional and inter-agency boundaries, which have been caused by arson.

“The majority of these fires were lit in interface settings,” says Staff Sgt. Annie Linteau, BC RCMP. “One of these fires, which occurred on July 15, 2017, in Lake Country, destroyed a number of homes. Thankfully, no one was injured or killed but the potential for the loss of life was considerable.”

The Southeast District RCMP Intentionally Set Wildfires Task Force asks anyone who has any information about any of the 29 wildfires or who may have seen anyone suspicious around the area to contact the designated tip line 1-855-685-8788 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

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