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Winds whip up 2 North Okanagan fires

Blaze sparked from old burn pile near racetrack, tree falls on power line north of Spallumcheen
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High winds knocked several trees down in the North Okanagan, including one that took a power line down with it and sparked a fire Monday evening. (Facebook photo)

High winds are the cause of two fires sparked in Spallumcheen Monday evening.

The Armstrong-Spallumcheen Fire Department was first called out to large smouldering slash pile at the old racetrack site off Highway 97A (near Westside Road) around 4:30 p.m. July 17.

“It was a hold-over fire from spring burning in a pile, the wind kind of whipped it up,” said chief Ian Cummings

But just as they were en route, the department got another call for a fire in the trees off Pyott Road near Enderby.

“So about as far away from each other as possible,” said Cummings.

BX-Swan Lake Fire Department was called to the slash pile while Spallumcheen’s crew jetted off to the north end of the township.

“A tree hit a power line and brought it down and it was arcing across the wire fence,” said Cummings. “It energized the fence. It was a real life safety risk.”

The fire could have quickly spread up the hill, but Cummings said local residents did a great job of knocking the fire down before crews arrived.

“Fast action by the residents really saved the day.”

There is no fire protection in the area, but BC Wildfire Service gave the local department permission to action the blaze.

The current fire situation has many, including Cummings, on edge.

“Any report of fire right now we are trying to hit it fast and hard. We don’t want anything getting away from us.”

With the ongoing heat (Environment Canada is forecasting temperatures of 34 Thursday and Friday), conditions are worsening as the land dries out.

“Everyday we have this heat you see less and less green out there,” said Cummings, adding that Monday night’s rain had dried up by the morning. “We need many, many days of continuous precipitation to make a difference.”

BX-Swan Lake fire chief Bill Wacey, who just returned from assisting with fires in Burns Lake, is also concerned for the rest of the summer.

“It’s gonna get worse,” said Wacey of the fire situation.

Several BX, Lumby and Armstrong firefighters were deployed Monday night to assist in Cranbrook, along with a structure protection unit.

Armstrong-Spallumcheen does have a crew of five on standby for all weekends throughout the summer, but Cummings admits that all departments are stretched thin as people are on vacations, camping, etc.

“Manpower is always a challenge for all the departments throughout the summer.”

READ MORE: Evacuation alert still in effect on Westside Road due to wildfire

READ MORE: Bolean Lake Road wildfire burns out of control near Falkland


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Jennifer Smith

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