Within 24 hours of breaking a high temperature record, Williams Lake residents watched as smoke from a wildfire on Fox Mountain billowed into the sky last Thursday.
“I know it scared a lot of people,” said Williams Lake Deputy Fire Chief Warnock whose crews responded at about 4:30 p.m. at the location of the fire — near Ross Road and Fox Mountain Road — which fell within the fire department’s jurisdiction.
The fire, one of the first of the 2018 season, was small but brought back scenes of water bombers over the city reminiscent of the 2017 wildfires.
A quick response by the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) and local contractors, such as Wyatt Bednarz, stopped the fire from growing larger than a hectare.
Bednarz and his son Brad brought their largest water truck up and worked the scene for hours into the evening.
During the wildfires Bednarz had eight trucks working for the BCWS and this year already have four trucks ready to go in a moment’s notice.
Because BCWS was bringing in an air tanker to drop retardant on the fire after a spotter had determined the size of the fire, the WLFD was asked to stay out by the road, Warnock said.
The BCWS crew of about 25 people also came out of the woods when the retardant was dropped.
Cariboo Fire Centre information officer Jessica Mack confirmed Monday the cause of the fire is being investigated by the BCWS.
At the time, however, witnesses on scene noted a logging crew was working in the forest when the fire started and the crew began fighting the fire and called in the BCWS.
When asked if the CFC is planning to shut down logging in the woods due to dry conditions, Mack said so far only Category 2 and 3 bans have gone into place.
Under the Wildfire Act, she explained, a person who carries out a high risk activity on or within 300 metres of forest land or grass land on or after March 1 and before November 1, unless the area is snow covered, must determine the fire danger class for the location.
“This applies to industry and commercial operators,” Mack said.
“Anyone who is conducting high risk activity can determine their obligations by finding out if the proposed activity is considered high risk, find out what the fire danger rating is for the proposed location of operation and based on what the fire danger rating is, determine if there are restrictions on high risk activities.
Warnock said the logging company had water on site and called for a water truck to bring in more water.
The Cariboo Fire Centre has confirmed that the fire that started on Fox Mountain the evening of May 24, 2018 is now 90% contained. Mop up is ongoing and there are currently no concerns for growth. Origin and cause are being investigated.
— City Williams Lake (@CityWL) May 25, 2018
By about 6:30 p.m. Thursday the WLFD returned to the fire hall, however, WLFD Assistant Chief Joan Flashpoler stayed until about 9 p.m. as BC Wildfire crews remained on scene.
Warnock said the BCWS crews were back on scene Friday as well.
BCWS chief information officer Kevin Skrepnek told the Tribune there were reports of a grass fire near Dugan Lake at the same time as the Fox Mountain fire Thursday.
The 150 Mile and Miocene Volunteer Fire Departments responded to the grass fire, Skrepnek said.
Preparing for the season
As the summer unfolds, the Williams Lake Fire department will be distributing information to residents about how to prepare for wildfires, Warnock said.
“We went down South Lakeside recently,” he explained.
“We were meeting with residents and handing out FireSmart manuals, just talking to them about FireSmarting their homes.”
The department plans to go into the Lexington, Esler and Dog Creek Road areas as well, hopefully during the month of June during the fire department’s regular Tuesday night practices, Warnock said.
“We want to put the bug in people’s ears, to keep their properties clean and the grass green, keep the tree limbs high, get rid of the dead trees, and make their homes safe.”