Rattlesnakes, bears and cougars? No worries for Australian firefighters in South Okanagan | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

Current Conditions

Clear
6.0°C

Penticton News

Rattlesnakes, bears and cougars? No worries for Australian firefighters in South Okanagan

Rattlesnake
Image Credit: BC Wildfire
August 20, 2021 - 7:00 AM

The Australian firefighters who came to the South Okanagan last month were battle-hardened well before they arrived.

Leading the Okanagan complex is the Australian B.C. Wildfire Service Incident Management Team. Among them is fire information office Luke Robinson, whose expertise was needed for Australia’s extraordinary bushfire season in 2019-2020, which left over 18 million hectares burned.

“The ’19-’20 season was easily our worst on record,” he said. “And pretty much everyone else that’s come over (from Australia) was part of that as well.”

This summer in B.C. is comparable to the summer of 2019-2020 down under, Robinson said. The two countries have different types of fuels in their wildernesses, but he’s noticing similar weather patterns in B.C. that led to the same levels of drought and dryness a year-and-a-half ago in Australia.

READ MORE: More B.C. wildfire firefighters sent to battle Australian wildfires

Last week, the Okanagan complex crew had a presentation on rattlesnake awareness and safety by staffers from the Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre.

Robinson said Australians are used to sharing a habitat with small, deadly creatures.

“We have a lot of small things that can kill you – spiders, snakes, sharks, jellyfish.”

He appreciates how rattlesnakes make noise to express that they feel threatened, as the rattle is not a feature among any Australian snakes. But he finds most of the deadly wildlife in Canada is too big to sneak up on humans.

His biggest wildlife fears in the B.C. bush are cougars and bears. His biggest fear in the Australian wilderness is crocodiles, which are found in the waters of North Queensland.

"They're stealthy creatures."

READ MORE: Kelowna animal rescue team making plans to return to Australia fire zones

B.C. Wildfire crews are trained to minimize loss of wildlife. It’s inevitable that some animals will be lost due to wildfires, but crews do their “utmost” to avoid boxing animals into a perimeter when executing a planned ignition, Robinson said.

The Australian firefighters, who arrived in B.C. on July 27, will be concluding their work with B.C. Wildfire on Aug. 26 and then flying home on Aug. 29. The Australian team will then spend two weeks quarantining in a hotel upon their arrival home.

“Worth it to be able to come over here and help.”

As for their ongoing efforts in the province, Robinson said the Nk’Mip Creek wildfire (20,066 hectares) hasn’t made any significant progress towards Mt. Baldy after jumping a containment guard on Aug. 14. Guards are in place along the western side of Mt. Baldy, hand ignitions are planned for today and tomorrow, and aerial ignitions will also take place if the weather co-operates.

Crews are also focused on preventing the Nk'Mip fire from reaching the Vaseux drainage, and have been performing hand ignitions yesterday and today to keep a distance between the containment line and the creek.

Assigned to Nk’Mip Creek are 215 firefighters, including 96 from Mexico, a Structural Protection Equipment, 34 support staff, 36 pieces of heavy equipment and seven helicopters.

READ MORE: Nk'Mip Creek wildfire's progress toward Baldy Mountain resort halted

South of Penticton at the Thomas Creek wildfire (10,597 hectares), visible smoke popped up yesterday but there was no significant activity. Assigned to that fire are 62 members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and they were paid a visit by Brigadier-General Bill Fletcher, the Commander of 3rd Canadian Division and Joint Task Force West.

“He visited the fire yesterday to meet the troops on the ground, and let them know they’re doing really good work,” Robinson said. 

In addition to the 62 CAF members, Thomas Creek has 11 other firefighters, 34 support staff, 19 pieces of heavy equipment and three helicopters taking care of the fire.

Experts from the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre were at BC Wildifre's Okanagan complex last week to share a presentation on rattlesnake safety and awareness.
Experts from the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre were at BC Wildifre's Okanagan complex last week to share a presentation on rattlesnake safety and awareness.
Image Credit: BC Wildfire

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 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.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © iNFOnews, 2021
iNFOnews

  • Popular kelowna News
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile