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Smoke leads Vernon firefighters to the Ministry of Forests

Vernon Fire Department (file photo).
February 26, 2015 - 7:30 PM

VERNON - The Vernon Fire Department attended the scene of a fire Tuesday not knowing the Ministry of Forests set it on purpose.

The B.C Wildfire Management Branch planned the controlled burn just off Highway 97 in the Predator Ridge area but didn’t give the Vernon Fire Department any notice.

Deputy fire chief Jack Blair says a fire engine with a four person crew was dispatched to the area after receiving calls from the public about smoke near Predator Ridge just before 2 p.m. Feb. 24.

“We’ve always got to err on the side of caution,” Blair says. “We didn’t know who it was (lighting it). It could have been anything.”

The site of the fire turned out to be in the Wildfire Management Branch’s Vernon Zone. The area is technically located outside the City of Vernon’s bounds under the jurisdiction of the North Okanagan Regional District. Blair says notification from the Ministry could have saved the fire department a trip.

“We went out for a look and then turned around,” Blair says. “It would be nice to have the phone number of an individual on scene that worked out there that we could have called to verify with and saved everybody from going…. With outdoor burning in a high visibility area, usually you give the heads up.”

But Fire Information Officer Kayla Pepper says the Wildfire Management Branch had no responsibility to contact Vernon Fire and Rescue Services in advance of the burn.

“They (B.C. Wildfire officials) followed the proper process to register the burn,” Pepper says. “There was no duty to notify Vernon Fire and Rescue because it’s not their jurisdiction.”

She says the small, category three fire—lit to clean out dead grass and debris—was registered beforehand in a Ministry database, something anyone wanting to conduct a similar sized fire is required to do. Pepper says the fire department could have contacted wildfire dispatch to see if the burn was registered.

“It was just like anyone burning on private land,” Pepper says.

While open burning is currently not permitted within the City of Vernon limits, it is allowed in the Vernon Fire Zone. Anyone wishing to light a category three fire must first obtain a burn registration number by calling 1-888-797-1717.

B.C. Wildfire will be following up with the Vernon Fire Department with regards to the controlled burn on Feb. 24.

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

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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