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Fire crew knock down trees in Similkameen blaze to save gas line from rupturing

The out of control brush fire spread to cottonwoods planted at a high pressure gas line

The brush fire that threatened a high-pressure gas line in Cawston Sunday night could have been much worse if the gas lines underneath it had been damaged, says the Keremeos Fire Department.

The fire department finally cleared from the scene at Daly Drive in Cawston and wrapped up at around 11 p.m, close to 10 hours after the blaze was first called in at 1 p.m.

The brush fire quickly spread through trees and brush covering a large area along Daly Drive before finding its way to the cottonwood trees.

The long shift for firefighters included the wait for a specialist technician from FortisBC to arrive and mark out where the buried high-pressure gas lines are underneath the burning cottonwood trees.

The location of the fire made it too dangerous for firefighters to go in.

“The fire got up into the trees, and it was just too dangerous to put anybody in it, we couldn’t get water into it, we couldn’t use the chainsaw to cut the trees down,” said Keremeos fire chief Jordy Bosscha on Monday. “That was for two reasons. One, because of the decay and state of the trees. We were worried about a branch breaking and falling on someone.

“And the other reason was the high-pressure distributor gas line in the proximity of the trees. Last thing we wanted to do was rupture that line. There would have been a bit of a boom.”

READ MORE: PHOTOS: Out of control brush fire threatens high pressure gas line in Similkameen

The technician gave the firefighters the details on where the gas lines ran, and helped devise a plan for how to push the trees over and pile them up and away from the gas line to be dealt with.

The fire department had another late call last Saturday night at Cory Road just outside Keremeos, when a fire started in a pile of sod, roots and stumps before spreading to some nearby cottonwoods. That fire failed to get as entwined into the cottonwoods as the Sunday fire, in part due to the cooler conditions of the evening.

After that fire, the members of the fire department then went out to join the wildfire training symposium in Penticton on Sunday morning.

“It was a long shift, especially when a bunch of us were out for three hours the night before,” said Bosscha.

The causes of both fires are still under investigation.

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Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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