It seemed like just another hot, sunny Kamloops day in the summer of 2003 when we noticed dark smoke over the ridge behind our upper Sahali residence.
My wife and I walked up to where others stood along the ridge and, like them, were awed by what we saw. From somewhere behind Strawberry Hill and Mount Paul, rose a enormous plume of dark smoke.
The hills were on fire.
That night, I took my camera up to Kenna Cartrwight park to take photos of the blaze, which had spread to parts of the mountain facing the city. What became known as the Strawberry Hill fire reached 5,731 Hectares before it was contained. It was believed to have been caused by discarded cigarette butts.
That was a bad summer for human-caused fires in the Kamloops region. The worst of them, the McLure-Barriere blaze, covered 26,265 hectares. Seventy-five homes were destroyed, as was the Tolko mill in Barriere. This fire was the result of a discarded cigarette butt. The person responsible for “dropping a burning substance” was fined $3,000.
On Thursday, May 30, Sicamous and Malakwa firefighters were joined by BC Wildfire Services firefighters in an effort to extinguish a forest fire in Two Mile. Prior to the fire, Sicamous RCMP received a report of a flare gun being used near where the fire occurred.
The following morning, two hot, smouldering campfires were found left unattended in the Fly Hills.
Not surprisingly, another hot, dry summer is in the forecast for B.C. The Coastal, Prince George and Cariboo fire centres have already initiated bans on open fires. The Northwest Fire Centre has banned open fires and campfires. Meanwhile, both remain permitted in the Kamloops Fire Centre, including the Shuswap.
While there may be a number of cooler days ahead this week, the Kamloops Fire Centre’s Fire Danger Rating for Salmon Arm, as of Monday, June 3 was Extreme. That alone seems reason to initiate a ban on open fires and campfires in our region sooner than later.
No, fire bans likely won’t stop the self-absorbed idiocy witnessed last week, but at least they can be enforced and further stress the need to be fire smart.