Four brush fires kept local firefighters busy Sunday night and Monday morning. Crews from Castlegar, Ootischenia, Robson and Celgar were each called out to one or more fires over a 14 hour period.
Two fires involving power lines or poles started at approximately the same time around 5:45 p.m. on Sunday — one in Ootischenia and one in Blueberry. Both fires spread to surrounding brush but were quickly put out by fire crews.
The Ootischenia fire took place on Ootischenia Rd. just at the point where the Castlegar and Ootischenia fire department boundaries converge. Quick calls from the public and a volunteer firefighter who happened to spot the fire enabled a rapid response. Fire crews were able to contain the fire to a 100 ft. by 75 ft. area.
The Ootischenia Volunteer Fire Department (OVFD) had 3 apparatus and 10 fire firefighters on site and they were assisted by one truck and a crew from the Castlegar Fire Department as well.
The fire was very visible from the highway resulting in numerous calls. Some of those calls went directly to OVFD fire chief George Hamm. “I would like to encourage the public to phone 911 first, rather than trying to phone direct lines,” he said. “I had just come back from holidays, and may not have been in the area, and that is then a wasted phone call.” Numerous calls are helpful however, as dispatch relays the new information, giving the fire chief updated information on the way to a call, helping him to make decisions regarding how many crews to call in and where to send them.
The Blueberry fire started at the Fortis Substation located at the north end of Centre Ave. One pumper truck and a crew of six attended the fire. The fire involved power poles and surrounding brush and was put out very quickly.
The next fire occurred at 1:03 a.m. opposite Interfor on Arrow Lakes Drive. It was also caused by a power line issue. “It’s tough when it gets dry for a bit,” explained Castlegar fire chief Gerry Rempel. “You get problems with dust build-up, and then if you get a heavy wind, it can really cause problems.”
Three pump trucks from Castlegar attended the fire as well as crews from the Robson Volunteer Fire Department and Celgar. This fire was larger than the previous two. “We had pretty heavy winds out of the west at the time, so that spread it a little quicker,” said Rempel. “The wind was causing a bit of havoc for us.” Crews were on site until 4:30 a.m.
Fire crews didn’t have much rest, as the next call came in at 7:10 a.m. That brush fire was opposite Fairview, near the mouth of Blueberry Creek and the Columbia River. The fire was started when a camper’s fire got out of control, causing damage to the tent and campsite before spreading to the bush. One truck and seven fire fighters were on site at that fire.
“Even with a small campfire, be careful with it,” encouraged Rempel. “There is not a campfire ban on yet, but conditions are such that you have to really exercise good practices — make sure it is out, especially when there is wind. Fire can spread very quickly in these conditions.”