Volunteer firefighters in Keremeos are eager to help as the largest wildfire in the province rages about 12 kilometres south of the village.
Jordy Bosscha said three firefighters will be working night shifts 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. as long as needed, patrolling for spot fires.
“As a firefighter it’s always hard to sit and watch,” Bosscha told the Review Wednesday.
Since BC Wildfire asked for volunteers to help with the Initial Attack teams, Keremeos firefighters have been clamouring to signup. The three-person crews work with BC Wildfire, patrolling in opposite directions to cover more ground. If they see something, they radio it in right away, so wildfire crews can quickly douse the spot fires.
“It’s good everyone is willing to help. Everyone is jumping in, fighting over taking a shift. There’s no shortage of people wanting to help out with this,” he said.
Embers, ashes and chunks of burning branches are falling from the nearby Snowy Mountain, which at the time of this posting was 6,155 hectares in size.
Significant fire growth occurred overnight Wednesday to the east and north sides of the fire.
Another view of the fire just west of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band office. The fire is burning in spots in the southern crest of the mountain. pic.twitter.com/tv1zyT3olZ
— PentictonWesternNews (@PentictonNews) August 1, 2018
Bosscha said the three-person crew patrolling Wednesday night into Thursday morning did not see any spot fires start down in the valley floor in or around Keremeos. Bosscha said some firefighters are working the night shift and going into their day jobs the next morning depending on where they work and if they are needed.
“There’s no doubt about it, they are dedicated to this community.”
Currently, 384 property parcels have been placed on alert within Keremeos and 481 properties in rural Keremeos and Cawston areas.
Some properties in the Lower Similkameen Indian Band are also under evacuation alert.
An Evacuation Order was issued for Cathedral Lakes Lodge, not because of the Snowy Mountain Fire, but due to the Placer Mountain wildfire. The Placer Mountain fire is burning about 36 kilometres southwest of Keremeos in high elevation and was listed at 2,336 hectares in size at the time of this posting.
The lodge was evacuated because of concerns there might not be road access.
Bosscha, who is also the village’s public works manager, urged everyone not to panic, but be prepared.
“It’s precautionary the alert, It’s precautionary to give you the heads up to start thinking about the things you want to pack up and get ready to go just in the chance things go south on us,” he said.
He also suggested for everyone, in the evacuation alert or not, to take sometime and look around their homes and reduce the risk of fire.
“The biggest thing for me is the tall grassy fields, and cedar hedges are like a gallon of gas just sitting their waiting,” he said. “When I think back to the 2003 Kelowna fire that the biggest thing for me and with bark mulch it creeps underneath and then comes up 10 feet over and then creeps up somewhere else,” he said.
Public works crew for the village has been out patrolling public areas during the day this week looking for areas that might pose a risk and clearing potential fire hazards.
Bosscha noted in all his years, he hasn’t seen a fire quite like this in the Keremeos area.
“We’ve had a number of fires back behind the K (mountain) and back the Ashnola, plumes of smoke and ashes coming down, but nothing as close as this,” he said.
He said the department is always looking for volunteers and the five student firefighters graduated last year and there are openings for high school students.
Anyone interested can pickup an application at the village office anytime or the fire hall on Tuesdays from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. during weekly practice.
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