Partying houseboaters aren't the biggest threat for Shuswap Lake fires - InfoNews

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Partying houseboaters aren't the biggest threat for Shuswap Lake fires

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
August 06, 2020 - 6:00 AM

While speculation is rife that fireworks were the cause of the blaze burning at Shuswap Lake near a popular party spot for people house boating, Sicamous Fire Chief Brett Ogino says there haven't been many fires over the years at the popular lakeshore beaches.

Multiple eyewitnesses report seeing or hearing fireworks being let off shortly before flames began quickly spread late in the evening Aug. 3 at Shuswap Lake Marine Provincial Park Marble Point site. The fire, now 1.5 hectares in size is currently being held by B.C. Wildfire Service.

"We haven't had a ton of fires coming off the shore with campfires and stuff, you'd think that might be a possibility but it's actually been fairly quiet," Ogino said. "Lightning is actually our biggest threat."

The Marble Point site where the fire is currently burning is roughly 20 minutes by boat from Sicamous and a popular place for boat campers on private and rented houseboats. Nearby cabin owners say fireworks are a nightly occurrence in the summer months.

"One of the reasons we banned fireworks was that we were concerned about the amount of activity going on up the lake and the potential," Ogino said. "Perhaps we've been lucky, but I would say we haven't had a lot of fires up the lake."

Ogino said while there is often speculation fires are caused by fireworks, it's often very difficult to know, and to prove it is even more difficult. The fire chief said last year a fire was believed to have been started by a flare, but it was not proven.

Along with the District of Sicamous's ban on the sale of fireworks during the summer brought in last year, Ogino gives credit to the houseboat companies.

"All the houseboat companies have been very proactive about not bringing them on board," he said.

Twin Anchors Houseboats, Bluewater Houseboats, and Sicamous Houseboats all told they inform guests fireworks are banned and guests sign in their agreement not to use them or sign the B.C. Parks agreement prohibiting fireworks.

Ogino said because fireworks can be purchased in multiple jurisdictions, it does make them very difficult to control.

"How do you stop a person on a speed boat with their own fireworks?" he said.

Ogino wouldn't speculate on the cause of the Marble Point fire and the B.C. Wildfire Service is currently investigating.

The fire chief also confirmed the Office of the Fire Commissioner was investigating a fire that destroyed a houseboat on Mara Lake, in the early hours of the morning Aug. 4.

Over 20 adults and children were on the boat and nobody was hurt. Ogino said he got the call about 2 a.m. Aug. 4 and had to get authorization as the fire was outside of the District of Sicamous's protection zone.

"We heard that everyone was off the boat and everyone was safe medically and there were no injuries," he said. "Our concern at that point was not so much extinguishing the boat but making sure it didn't extend into the bush and become a brush fire."

The fire chief said the 75-foot long boat was engulfed in flames and there was very little left of the boat when the fire was knocked down.

Sicamous Houseboats owner Barb Scott refused an interview with but instead said in a statement the company was very grateful the family on board was safe, and the cause was currently unknown.

Ogino said the investigation into the houseboat fire would be difficult as there was "not much to work with."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer 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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