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Communities on edge: Thompson-Okanagan fire officials field calls for false alarms

August 27, 2015 - 9:00 PM

THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - Fire appears to be at the forefront of many peoples’ minds across the Thompson-Okanagan.

With wildfires burning across the province and a blanket of smoke from Washington hanging in the air, fire officials say they are receiving a number of reports which are in fact nothing more than false alarms.

In the North Okanagan, a concerned resident called the Armstrong-Spallumcheen Fire Department to report a wildfire on Rose Swanson Mountain. When crews went to check it out, nothing was found, fire chief Ian Cummings says.

“It turned out it was probably just an optical illusion,” Cummings says. “Lots of times, the light isn’t what you think it is.”

It’s possible that light hitting the hazy sky created the impression of a glowing fire. Even sunlight reflecting off house windows has been known to set off alarm bells and prompt calls to the fire department, Cummings says. It’s also common for people to see smoke in the sky and think it’s closer than it is, he says.

“Once the heavy smoke has been in the air a few days, people are used to it, but when it first starts we get a number of calls from people concerned it’s burning close by,” Cummings says. “People get a little nervous this time of year. They understand what a fire can do and they’re erring on the side of caution.”

And that’s good as far as the fire chief is concerned.

“I would rather someone call us to check it out than have something get away on them,” he says.

Smoky skies across the region have generated a number of calls to B.C.’s Wildfire Management Branch as well.

Fire information officer Melissa Klassen says a significant number of calls have come in over the past couple weeks.

“It can be frightening and concerning when you see a big blanket of smoke rolling in to where you are,” Klassen says. “We get a lot of people calling to say there must be a fire in the vicinity. The thing we try to communicate is that if you see general haze or a heavy blanket of smoke, it’s more than likely coming from another region.”

With the pervading blanket of smoke from Washington settled in the region, B.C. Wildfire is asking people to call if they see a wildfire or a distinct column of smoke — not general haze.

You can report fires to *5555 or 1-800-663-5555.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724. 

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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