Locals wondering if small debris fire led to Lumby wildfire - InfoNews

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Locals wondering if small debris fire led to Lumby wildfire

Local photographer Dale Eurich captured numerous photos of the Cooper Mountain wildfire near Lumby, Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Dale Eurich Photography
May 24, 2017 - 12:03 PM

LUMBY - While the cause of a wildfire burning near Lumby remains undetermined, some locals say they saw a small fire smouldering in the same area one week ago.

Jackie Pichette drives people up Cooper Mountain for hang gliding and paragliding activities and says last Wednesday, May 17, she noticed a small, unattended debris pile smouldering on Cooper Creek Forest Service Road.

“It was just smoky and smouldering,” Pichette says.

Believing the pile to be on a Tolko cutblock, she left a message about the debris fire with the company. She also notified the logging school, run by Charles Bloom Secondary, thinking it may be in their wood lot, but was told it was outside their area. 

Returning to the site in the following days, Pichette did not see anyone attending to the fire, which continued to smoke as recently as Sunday when she saw it last. 

“Nobody seemed concerned,” she says.

In an email, Don Hanson, spokesperson for Tolko, said the fire is not in the company's operating area. 

Terry Butcher, a pilot with Freedom Flight School, also saw the smouldering debris pile last week.

A wildfire burns on Cooper Mountain, near Lumby, May 23, 2017.
A wildfire burns on Cooper Mountain, near Lumby, May 23, 2017.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Dale Eurich Photography

“We were surprised no one was there attending to it,” he says of the roughly nine by nine foot pile.

Both Butcher and Pichette say the roughly four hectare wildfire now burning near Lumby is in the same general area as the debris pile they saw smouldering last week.

Lumby fire chief Tony Clayton says the department was not made aware of a fire in the Cooper Mountain area until Tuesday, May 23. When asked about the possibility of an earlier debris fire sparking the wildfire, Clayton said the B.C. Wildfire Service is responsible for investigating the cause.

Information officer Max Birkner, with the B.C. Wildfire Service, says no cause for the Cooper Mountain fire has yet been determined. The fire is an estimated four hectares in size, and is about two kilometres northwest of Lumby.

According to the local fire chief, about 30 homes were on evacuation alert. Today, May 24, the regional district cancelled the evacuation alerts for homes along Cooper Road and Hurt Road. The emergency operation centre for those affected by the Creighton Creek flooding is still active. 

Both Pichette and Butcher say vandalism and unattended campfires have been an ongoing concern in the area in recent years.

“We’ve had to put out small campfires in the past,” Pichette says.

To check out more photos of the Cooper Road wildfire visit Dale Eurich Photography on Facebook.

– This story was updated at 1:40 p.m. Wednesday, May 24, 2017 to include the rescinded evacuation order. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 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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