Okanagan fires unattended as crews have ‘bigger fish to fry’

Fires glow on the hills above Mabel Lake July 14, as seen from the Enderby side from the marina. (Bruce Ingleson photo)Fires glow on the hills above Mabel Lake July 14, as seen from the Enderby side from the marina. (Bruce Ingleson photo)
Fire smoke on the hills above Mabel Lake on July 13, as seen from the Enderby side from the marina. (Bruce Ingelson photo)Fire smoke on the hills above Mabel Lake on July 13, as seen from the Enderby side from the marina. (Bruce Ingelson photo)

Bush fires smouldering and outdated dashboard statistics are a sign of how busy the province’s firefighters are.

There are currently 306 active wildfires in B.C., 26 of which were discovered in the last two days. The majority of those fires (109) are burning in the Kamloops Fire Centre, which covers the Okanagan and Shuswap regions.

So far this year, there have been 1,074 fires, again, the majority of which (323) are in the Kamloops Fire Centre.

While all fires are being monitored, not all of them are being actioned.

“Not all fires are bad,” B.C. Wildfire Service fire information assistant Taylor Shantz said. “Fire is a natural part of the forest ecosystem. Sometimes if it’s an ecological burn and as long as it’s burning at a lower rank we leave it alone.”

READ MORE: Fires being left to burn in North Okanagan Shuswap worry residents

The fire centre is in a state of triaging fires, with the first fires responded to being those where life and limb is at risk.

“So we’re basically having to choose which fires we send our resources to,” Shantz said. “If it’s far enough away as not to pose a threat to the public we will leave them.”

One such blaze is the 10-hectare Spectrum Creek fire north of Sugar Lake, as well as the nearby 0.1 hectare Lower Nelson forest service road fire. Both are listed as out of control.

“There are no ground crews on it at this time,” Shantz said. “Bigger fish to fry.”

“But daily flights are going over to make sure these things aren’t moving.”

One fire that is getting some attention in rural Lumby is the 40-hectare Bunting Road blaze. Six personnel, a helicopter and heavy equipment have been tackling that fire.

Some locals on the Enderby side of Mabel Lake have been shocked to see the size of the fire at night, glowing over the mountain. But Shantz reminds residents that fires look drastically different when night falls.

“Fires are going to seem a lot larger at night, you get that glow.”

Meanwhile the Baird Lake blaze near Hidden Lake is under control at 1.1 hectares after some cabins were evacuated July 13.

There has also been some confusion with the Spallumcheen fire near Greenbow Creek.

The B.C. Wildfire Service dashboard still has the fire listed as 1.2 hectares and out of control. But it has been mopped up since July 13.

“That fire actually falls within the Armstrong-Spallumcheen jurisdiction,” Shantz explains.

“Given the number of fires going on it may just take a little bit longer to update.”

READ MORE: Evacuation alert extended due to Brenda Creek wildfire


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B.C. Wildfires 2021