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No sign of rumoured video showing tossed cigarette starting B.C. wildfire

Burnt out vehicles are pictured outside a burnt down residence along Highway 3 in Rock Creek, B.C., Sunday, August 16, 2015. A wildfire swept through the area on Thursday claiming 29 homes and sending hundreds fleeing from the flames.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
August 19, 2015 - 9:32 AM

ROCK CREEK, - Days after a wildfire destroyed 30 homes in southeast British Columbia, rumoured video of a tossed cigarette that sparked the blaze hasn't been found.

The Forests Ministry said Tuesday that investigators have reviewed the nearest highway camera in Rock Creek, about two kilometres from the spot where the fire broke out.

Ministry spokeswoman Vivian Thomas said a BC Wildfire Service investigator spoke to a resident who reported the existence of a video but no footage has been located.

"No one has come forward with a video related to how the Rock Creek fire was started," Thomas said.

She said anyone with information, photos or video should contact the wildfire service or the RCMP.

Fire information officer Mike McCulley said the video is "a rumour, as far as we can tell."

"There's no video at this time. We have investigators working with the RCMP and they are actively pursuing any leads they can find so we can try to resolve this issue."

He said investigators have not determined that a cigarette sparked the 37-square kilometre blaze but it is likely human-caused.

"That's something that is unacceptable," he said. "We need the public to pay really close attention to what they're doing out there.

"We have to have our resources available for lightning-caused fires and you can see the tragedy that happens when preventable human-caused fires occur."

The Rock Creek blaze was sparked last Thursday just north of the junction of highways 3 and 33.

An evacuation order remains for 137 homes, down from 333 last week, but the aggressive fire still has not been contained.

Premier Christy Clark was asked about a possible video during a news conference Sunday outside an evacuation centre in nearby Midway.

She said she didn't know if any footage existed but if an individual is found to have caused the devastating blaze, they will face consequences.

Clark called for tougher penalties for people who start wildfires. Currently, the maximum fine for tossing a cigarette is $173, but anyone found to have caused a fire may be ordered to pay firefighting costs.

Chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said it can be difficult for investigators to find the precise ignition point in a large wildfire, but they have located it in Rock Creek.

He said a man was fined $3,000 after discarding a cigarette that caused the 2003 McLure-Barriere fire near Kamloops, destroying 73 homes and a sawmill.

However, Skrepnek said the man admitted that he dropped the butt, so an investigation wasn't needed.

There were 238 fires burning in the province and most were caused by lightning, Skrepnek said. The cost of direct firefighting efforts on Monday alone was $3.2 million.

The Ministry of Forests announced Tuesday night that it had closed Highway 3 to traffic between Christina Lake and Highway 3B until further notice because of a fire on the Paulson Pass

In Oliver, about 40 kilometres west in the Okanagan Valley, two wildfires that destroyed two homes were still smouldering Tuesday.

The Testalinden Creek fire measured 16 square kilometres and was 40 per cent contained, while the Wilson Mountain fire was 317 hectares and 70 per cent contained.

Evacuation orders have been lifted for all the homes in the area but residents are being warned to be ready to leave at a moment's notice.

Fire information officer Noelle Kekula said hot, dry weather has challenged crews but more than 100 firefighters are working to contain the flames.

On Tuesday, the B.C. government announced the opening of a centre in Midway to provide counselling and support programs for people affected by the Oliver and Rock Creek fires.

News from © Canadian Press, 2015
Canadian Press

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