Snakes rattling up trouble for wildfire crews near Keremeos

Terrain near the Snowy Mountain fire, 14 kilometres southeast of Keremeos, is home to rattlesnakes

A beware of Rattlesnakes sign in the Chopaka area southeast of Keremeos where wildfire crews are working.(Photo courtesy of BC Wildfire)

As if scorching temperatures, steep slopes and strong winds weren’t enough to contend with, BC Wildfire Crews fighting the snowy Mountain fire near Keremeos also have to keep a close eye out for rattlesnakes.

Claire Allen, information officer for BC Wildfire, said since crews arrived to fight the fire, firefighters have run into numerous large rattlesnakes.

“I’m from Kamloops, so it’s not uncommon for me to see snakes, but these snakes are quite large, they’re definitely healthier here,” she said.

This time of year, the preferred habitat of Western Rattlesnakes include tall grassy areas where they can easily feast on voles, mice, pocket gophers, ground nesting birds, and other vermin. That also enjoy rocky terrain where they can bask in the warmth of the Similkameen sun, but also find a quick hiding spot to keep them safe from predators.

Related: Update: Smokier skies expected near Snowy Mountain fire

An aerial photo of the terrain near the Snowy Mountain fire near Keremeos during a burnoff Aug. 7, 2018.(Photo courtesy BC Wildfire)

The valley floor southeast of Kermeos where BC Wildfire firefighters are doing a lot of work to keep the community of Chopaka safe offers up both tall grassy areas and rocky terrain – perfect conditions for run ins with rattlesnakes.

“We’re in one of their natural habitats. They’re seeing quite a few of them in long grasses,” she said.

Firefighters working the front lines always carry a stick or pulaski (wildfire tool combining an axe and a hoe). In this fire the tools offer an added benefit as a rattlesnake checker before they put their hands in a place they can’t see.

“When doing cold trailing firefighters are literally using their hands. They’re looking for lingering fire activity especially in areas where we have done burn offs. Basically they’re looking for any lingering fire activity so they’re checking rock dugouts, root systems and testing it to see if there is any remaining smouldering organic materials,” she said.

Related: Rattlesnakes in parts of South OK could be hissssss-tory

Allen wasn’t sure how many snakes crews had run into, but said it was a “regular” occurrence.

No one working the wildfire had been bitten by a rattlesnake at the time of this posting.

Other challenges faced by BC Wildfire crews working the Snowy Mountain fire include falling rocks.

“One of the other hazards we’re seeing as the fire is burning root system of trees on the steep slopes is that rocks are dislodging and they are sliding down the slopes,” she said.

The heat is offering up its own challenge with temperatures this week hovering around 40C at times. She noted because of aggressive fire behaviour, crews are working hard, “and breaks are few and far between.”

The Snowy Mountain fire was first discovered July 17 after a lightning storm went through the region. It has since grown to just over 12,000 hectares in size and is nearing the U.S. border.

To report a typo, email:
editor@keremeosreview.com
.


@TaraBowieBC
editor@keremeosreview.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Have a heart when it comes to homelessness

When we de-humanize people, it’s easier to be cruel to them, says letter writer

Military police motorcycle relay roars through Nanaimo

National fundraising ride visited Mt. Benson legion en route to Lantzville and Campbell River

Wildfire southwest of Nanaimo now largely under control

Crews have been on the scene since Friday

Island Health warning of spike in overdoses in Nanaimo area

Substance users advised to visit overdose prevention site on Wesley Street in Nanaimo

Beefs & Bouquets, Aug. 5

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

B.C. fish harvesters receive long-awaited details on pandemic benefits

Applications to the $470-million federal assistance programs will open Aug. 24

Arson suspected in several wildfires lit near Kootenay town

RCMP making progress in arson investigation of Marsh Creek fires

Three screening officers at Vancouver airport test positive for COVID-19

The public is not believed to be at risk of exposure

VIDEO: B.C. conservation officers free not-so-wily coyote with head stuck in jar

Poor pup was found with a glass jar stuck on its head in Maple Ridge

‘Do our lives count for less?’: COVID-19 exposes cracks in disability aid

In July, Parliament approved a $600 payment for people with disabilities facing additional expenses during COVID-19

Agreement between province, BC Hydro, First Nation, ends legal fight over Site C

B.C. will work to improve land management and restore traditional place names in areas of cultural significance

Investigators still hoping to solve 2015 homicide of Penelakut Island woman

Tips being sought into Penelakut Island woman’s death five years ago

B.C. doctors, dentists call on province for mandatory mask rule

Open letter says masks should be worn in indoor public spaces, public transportation or in crowds

Most Read