'Still not out of the woods,' Sicamous mayor recounts experience with wildfire | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'Still not out of the woods,' Sicamous mayor recounts experience with wildfire

The wildfire burning to the south of Sicamous, July 21, 2021.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Shuswap Lake Watch
July 22, 2021 - 6:30 AM

In the 20 years Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz has lived in the town, he’s never seen a wildfire like this threaten.

The Two Mile Road wildfire, located two kilometres south of Sicamous, grew to 400 hectares within a day. Roughly 1,000 Sicamous residents were evacuated Tuesday night and thousands more are on evacuation alert. It is still classified as out of control, according to the B.C. Wildfire Service.

The fire started when a van drove off of Highway 97A and drove into a hydro poll. The transformer on the poll exploded and sent sparks down the power line and created an area of 300 to 400 metres where sparks started the fire, Rysz said.

"It is crazy, but that's exactly what happened... the guy didn't leave his vehicle because he was surrounded by wires that were sparking away." The power had to be shut down and by that time the whole east side of the highway was on fire, he said.

READ MORE: Wildfire near Sicamous grows to 130 hectares overnight

The fire came within 100 metres of the Sicamous Creek Mobile Home Park, but firefighters were able to prevent structures from being lost, he said.

“It’s burned more towards the top of the ridge. It seems to be burning mostly to the east and what we’re trying to do is make sure there’s a fire guard there to contain the fire so it doesn’t move to the north, because if it moves to the north it’s coming directly up Sicamous,” he said.

“(Tuesday) and (Wednesday) have been pretty stressful but we know we’re getting through it. We’ve had a tremendous amount of support from professional people."

The last major incident the town has seen was back in 2012, with a flooding event, but Rysz has never seen anything like this with wildfires near the town, he said.

Rysz is not under an evacuation alert or order, but the Sicamous fire chief and other city staff had to evacuate Tuesday night, he said.

“Right now there’s aerial attacks happening on the mountainside and we’ve got boots on the ground,” he said, adding that fire departments from across the region are helping fight the blaze.

“It’s very steep, which makes it challenging, but in-between the fire and the town is Sicamous Creek and there’s quite a big gorge in there so that’s a bit of a positive but if it ever jumps that and if we get strong winds, a fire can move and jump very quickly, so we’re still not out of the woods with this yet, we’re still very concerned,” he said.

Rysz called it “surreal” how quickly the fire blazed near the town. Tuesday morning, he had a conversation with the fire chief about evacuation plans while seeing the rest of the province grappling with wildfires. Three hours later, the fire had spread.

“This fire came very, very quickly and we weren't expecting to have any fires here,” he said.

“We were getting prepared for the worst and it paid off at the end of the day. Our fire chief had a good plan in place. The biggest challenge for us is where do people go when you evacuate when every motel and hotel in the region is filled up based on other fires that are around the region?”

Evacuees are asked to register with Emergency Support Services online.

There are evacuation plans in place and there are three routes in and out of town, Highway 97A, and the Trans-Canada are going east and west for people to evacuate the town, he said.

Highway 97A is currently closed due to the wildfire. The Columbia Shuswap Regional District says winds are favourable but there are no changes to recent orders and alerts, which are expected to remain in effect for at least the next 24 hours.

Residents have responded well to the evacuation order and Rysz said he’s proud of the emergency responders and community for safely getting people out of the town.


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