Wednesday fire burns nearly one hectare of grassland
Flames leaped over the shoulder of the Coquihalla Highway on Wednesday, reaching for vehicles heading towards Kamloops as drivers navigated their way through thick smoke.
The grassfire ignited at approximately 4:50 p.m., generating smoke that wafted throughout Merritt.
Merritt RCMP Sgt. Norm Flemming said the fire started from a campfire and police have a suspect.
“The individual is homeless and is sort of a fixture around Merritt in the summertime,” he said. “The investigation isn’t fully complete and we are examining our options to see how we’ll proceed.”
Fire crews arrived nearly 15 minutes after the blaze was reported by a passerby.
The Merritt Fire Rescue Department battled the fire both from along the freeway and from below, off Highway 5A.
“Fifteen of our personnel attended,” said Merritt Fire Chief Dave Tomkinson. “We were complete by about 7:45 [p.m.].”
The fire was contained at approximately 5:45 p.m., and crews then turned the soil over to prevent further spread.
By the end of the blaze, the fire had eaten away nearly one hectare of grassland.
Ministry of Forest Protection Branch also attended the scene.
Anyone who contravenes a fire prohibition, such as open burning and campfires above half a metre wide, can be fined up to $100,000 and be sentenced to one year in jail. If a wildfire results, the fine could be up to $10,000 and they must pay firefighting and other costs.
Forest Service of British Columbia has rated Merritt in the moderate danger zone for fires, as of Friday.