By Angie Mindus
and Dan Hicks
Luck was obviously on the side of Alexis Creek this week after an afternoon outdoor survival class at the local school almost ended up with the town burning down.
An 18-year-old has been arrested and police are recommending one charge of arson after the student allegedly caused the out-of-control blaze trying to light an ant hill on fire while in the class on Tuesday.
“When I got there, it was chaos,” said Alexis Creek RCMP Const. Rob Marshall of the fire, which was only an estimated 30 to 50 metres from the school, at about 3 p.m.
“When I arrived there were kids and teachers everywhere –– the fire was out-of-control and gaining ground fast, heading towards a large propane tank.”
Marshall said thankfully fire crews from the Alexis Creek Field Unit of the Cariboo Fire Centre, including the Ravens crew, arrived on the ground quickly to construct fireguards to the fire’s west and east flanks, neutralizing its threat to the village.
Bombers were also on scene in a matter of minutes, hitting the out-of-control fire from the air.
“Luckily we had air bombers in the area on a training exercise. They were on-site within minutes,” said Marshall.
The Alexis Creek Ranch sustained property damage by way of lost timber and fencing, however, no homes were destroyed in the estimated 35-hectare blaze and no one was harmed.
Marshall said the students and teachers should have evacuated the area, but he understands their natural desire to help. He already visited the school Thursday discussing fire safety, and expects to have a further debriefing on the incident with all the professionals involved.
“(The students and teachers) felt they had to do something, they felt they had to try to put out the fire even though it was way beyond what they could do,” Marshall said, noting it was nice to see all the community support of residents who arrived with rakes to help put out the fire once it was contained.
“Luckily, no one was injured, and lesson’s learned.”
Marshall said the fire burned through the night, and crews were still mopping up Thursday.