Burnt SUV focus of investigation into cause of Sparks Lake wildfire northwest of Kamloops | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Burnt SUV focus of investigation into cause of Sparks Lake wildfire northwest of Kamloops

The Sparks Lake wildfire, June 30, 2021.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/BC Wildfire Service
September 03, 2021 - 7:30 AM

An investigation into the cause of the Sparks Lake wildfire was underway shortly after the blaze was discovered, and investigators may be on their way to uncovering what started B.C.'s largest wildfire of the year.

The potential source of the blaze was traced to an address between Sparks and Red Lakes, where investigators found a burnt out vehicle and what appeared to be an old marijuana grow operation, according to court documents.

The wildfire was discovered on June 28 and has since reached 89,626 hectares. It's now classified as being held by the B.C. Wildfire Service, but not before prompting evacuations for hundreds of residents northwest of Kamloops.

On June 29, B.C. Wildfire Service fire origin investigators traced the likely source of the blaze to 4000 Leblond Road, which is northwest of Red Lake.

Natural Resource officers arrived at the address around noon that day, where they met wildfire service investigators already at the scene.

READ MORE: Most evacuees on westside of Okanagan Lake can return home

Wildfire service investigators had determined the source of the fire was around a burnt out vehicle that had no plates and the Vehicle Identification Number too badly burnt to read. The make and model wasn't even visible anymore, but officers at the scene believed it most likely to be an older GMC Jimmy or Chevrolet Blazer based on its shape.

The vehicle was later seized as part of the investigation so it could be examined to determine the exact source of the ignition.

The burned vehicle was found on a roadway leading to the property, but investigators believe it was moved from a nearby field because of a tow strap still attached to the rear and tire marks left in the grass nearby.

Further along the road, investigators found a green Ford F-150 pickup truck and evidence of an "old marijuana grow operation," according to the court documents. Evidence included pots with fertilizer, plant debris, grow lights and shake tables.

Despite finding a truck parked in front of the residence, there were no people on the property.

The truck was found to be registered to a North Kamloops address.

READ MORE: Logan Lake has written the Fire Smart playbook for other cities, towns to follow

Investigators also spoke with the owner of the property who told them he had not been at the property in over a year and did not know who owned the burnt vehicle. He told them that a renter had been staying at the property but he was supposed to have left at the beginning of June 2021.

The former renter was not the registered owner of the green pickup found on the property.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources is continuing the investigation, pursuing charges on for dropping, releasing or mishandling a burning substance, but no suspect was named in the search warrant.

The Sparks Lake wildfire has continued for over two months and damaged or destroyed at least 52 buildings. Residents and property owners previously affected by the wildfire are cleared to return now, according to the Thompson Nicola Regional District.

It has been categorized as "being held" by the wildfire service since Aug. 26 after presenting challenges with continued northward growth. Crews continue to deliver water to the northeast flank as that area remains active.

READ MORE: 'How dare you': Healthcare workers react to rally against COVID vaccine cards at Kelowna General


To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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