Lake Country fire forced rare emergency evacuations

Firefighters were called to grass fire that started on private property and spread to almost two hectares in size Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.
Image Credit: Facebook/Christine L. Kilpatrick?

LAKE COUNTRY – Although less than a couple hectares in size, the Lake Country fire that forced a tactical evacuation of a neighbourhood this weekend could have destroyed homes had the winds changed.

Lake Country Fire Department Platoon Captain Brent Penner says the fire started Aug. 12 around 5:30 p.m. outside a wooden shed on private property.

“It started as a grass fire on property that extended to an out building that had a bunch of stuff in it,” he says. “The storage shed was one of the first things to go but it proceeded into thicker vegetation and trees.”

Several trees caught fire and Lake Country crews arrived to flames almost 10 m tall and a strong north wind blowing embers into dry grass.

The resulting spot fires, Penner says, expanded the size of the fire “significantly.”

“It probably took a good hour to knock it back then quite some time to put in the manpower and the labour to dig in a guard around the fire,” he says. “That’s the work that nobody sees.”

Local RCMP were called to help initiate a ‘tactical evacuation,’ which is only used when there isn’t time for warnings or alerts. Power was also cut to one home.

“You bang on the door and tell them ‘look in the back yard, go,’” he says. “It was fairly instantaneous.”

A pair of B.C. Wildfire bucket helicopters were kept on standby but in the end not required, according to Penner.

“Our guys were pretty up close and personal to the fire,” he says. “It was a pretty good save for our first-in team. If the wind would have come up and it started pushing into the fields to the north then we don’t have access to water there.”

Penner says the cause of the fire is human error and no charges will be pursued.

‘At the end of the day it’s going to come down as accidental in nature. RCMP are still investigating but there was no intent. It’s one of those things that got out of control.”

After roughly five hours of fighting, the fire was brought under control shortly after 10 p.m. No homes were destroyed and all residents were allowed to return that night. 


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