June 28, 2015 - 1:00 PM
THOMPSON-OKANAGAN – Almost half of the 16 new wildfires sparked in the Thompson-Okanagan region over the weekend were preventable because people caused them.
Kelsey Winter with B.C. Wildfire Management says seven of the fires crews have either put out, or are currently working to put out, have been listed as human caused.
The rest of the new fires, most under a hectare in size and not threatening any homes, were started by lightning strikes.
“Eight of the lightning fires we actually received last night. There was a lightning storm that went through the Penticton Fire Zone, between Cawston and Richter Pass,” Winter says. Smoke from the new fires can be seen from Oliver and Osoyoos.
She says crews are on their way to all the new fires “to make sure they are extinguished before they spread because of the heat and how dry the fuels are.”
The exact causes of the people-started fires this weekend, like the 3-ha fire above Peachland and a 1-ha blaze in Lake Country on Saturday, are under investigation.
“We do have some reports of abandoned camp fires, but we can’t really speak to the specific causes because we do still have our fire investigators on scene,” she says.
Winter says it’s been their experience improper fire use has sparked most of the human-caused fires. She admits improper fire use is a pretty general category, which refers to people not being compliant with fire regulations.
“Whether it’s an abandoned camp fire, having a camp fire that’s bigger than it’s supposed to be, or leaving it before it’s completely extinguished,” she says.
The big worry for Wildfire Management is the lightning storms in the forecast today and tomorrow.
“We will see an increase in the number of naturally occurring wildfires and as that starts to happen we really need our resources to be available to handle those fires,” she says. “We are asking the public to be very careful with their fire use so we can reduce the number of preventable, human-caused wildfires.”
Tossing burning cigarettes out car windows is another way to start a fire in the tinder dry conditions.
“With the human-caused fires so far this summer we haven’t had any confirmed reports any have been due to a lit cigarette but that’s very hard to establish until the investigation is completed,” Winter says. “It’s definitely possible with how dry the fuel is. A lit cigarette could definitely cause a wildfire.”
If you start a wildfire, the ticket will set you back $345 and then the possible fine to go with it can range as high as $100,000. Plus, depending on the circumstances, you could be on the hook for the cost of putting out the fire.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015