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Criminal probe begins after campfire-sparked blaze threatened homes in Kamloops

Blaze sparked Wednesday by campfire in Strathcona Park cut power to about 4,000 homes and businesses
Firefighters work on dousing the blaze. (Dave Eagles/KTW)

Electricity has been restored to nearly 4,000 homes and businesses in Kamloops, B.C., after a rapidly spreading grass fire swept through an area not far from the city centre.

A statement from Kamloops RCMP says the blaze was sparked Wednesday by a campfire in Strathcona Park and a criminal investigation has begun as police search for the person who lit it.

Flames came within metres of homes and structures but RCMP Supt. Jeff Pelley says in the statement that Kamloops firefighters and the BC Wildfire Service “did an amazing job” controlling and dousing the fire.

The BC Hydro website shows power in the area on either side of the Thompson River, overlooking the Overlanders Bridge, was cut just before 3 p.m. Wednesday, but had been restored about seven hours later.

The fire was fanned by gusty winds and spread quickly through the grass and sagebrush in the park but officials say it was controlled before any homes or structures were damaged.

The wildfire service ranks the current wildfire danger in B.C. from “very low” on the south coast, to “moderate” in the northeast, but a large area around Kamloops is also ranked as moderate, which means fuels are drying and the risk of surface fires, such as grass fires, is increasing.

The wildfire service website shows 52 fires have been reported since the start of the season on April 1, and 29 are considered active, but all are ranked as under control.

Dead and rapidly drying grasses exposed as snow recedes can raise early risks of a blaze and the wildfire service has said ample rainfall in May and June is key to curbing the fire danger over the summer.

READ MORE: Grassfire now under control in Kamloops west end