Smoke plumes as dry air extends fire ban
A backyard burn blazed out of control last Thursday, the day before the Kamloops Fire Centre extended a fire prohibition throughout the region.
The fire was off Fox Farm Road, which is outside the City of Merritt’s municipal boundaries and is within the Wildfire Management Branch’s jurisdiction, said Merritt Fire Rescue Department Fire Chief Dave Tomkinson.
“We have a fire protection agreement that allowed us to extinguish the fire,” he said.
During the blaze, a person occupying the home suffered a cardiac arrest, which the fire crew responded to as paramedics arrived.
The condition of the person hasn’t been released.
Fire ban extension
The Kamloops Fire Centre, which encompasses the Merritt zone, warned that dry weather has put 70 per cent of the region in a “high” or “extreme” fire danger rating.
Merritt’s ranking was “high” at press time Wednesday.
“If we get some significant precipitation, there is no question we will consider lifting [the ban],” Fire Information Officer Michaela Swan said. “It was only really pushed back a couple weeks in the Merritt zone.”
The ban, which was originally going to end on Oct. 15, remains in effect until Oct. 31, or until the public is notified otherwise.
The prohibition is a bit longer than average. In 2009, the ban was lifted on Oct. 19.
“The current forecast is calling for very little precipitation,” Swan noted.
Thirteen fires have broken out in the Kamloops zone in the last several weeks, with 11 of those caused by people. The two others were holdover lightning strikes from the end of August, Swan said.
“That shows how dry the conditions are that those fires were able to burn quite deeply and pop up still in these dry conditions,” she explained.
The Wildfire Management Branch responded to a blaze near Merritt on Midday Valley Road on Sept. 26, which was just over 0.3 of a hectare.
“We suspect it was some kind of human activity that started that fire,” Swan added.
The ban applies to openly burning material that is piled higher or wider than half a metre. People also aren’t allowed to burn stubble or grass. Fireworks and burning barrels of any size or description are also not allowed.
Those found in violation of the fire ban can be ticketed $345, and anyone who causes a wildfire through arson can be fined up to $1 million, spend up to three years in jail and pay firefighting costs.