The inability of fire fighters to get their equipment to the scene of a possible brush fire led to the removal of a rock blockade that was initially designed to keep trucks and cars off the spit of land that juts out into Minette Bay.
Kitimat fire chief Trent Bossence said a call came through from 911 recently about a possible fire at the end of the road next to the waterfront in Minette Bay.
“Typically we could drive to this location, but in this case the crews had to walk almost a kilometre, with the required gear, in anticipation of extinguishing a brush fire,” said Bossence.
“The delay in reaching the area and the reduced equipment available due to accessibility would have created a much more concerning situation, if the report was accurate.”
Fortunately, the fire that was spotted was a contained camp fire that was started by a group of youths, before the ban on open fires came into effect.
Bossence said the crew had to reduce the amount of equipment that would typically be needed to fight a brush fire. He reported the incident to the District of Kitimat, and a meeting was arranged to discuss the blockade.
The decision to remove the blockade, placed on the dirt road on land owned by Rio Tinto, follows the meeting between the District of Kitimat, Rio Tinto and Minette Bay residents, held on Thursday, July 20, mediated by Rio Tinto.
“At the request of the parties involved Rio Tinto has been providing some support to assist the conversation between residents of Minette Bay and the DoK to bring the parties together to resolve concerns regarding the proposed development that is currently in a process of consultation being managed by the DoK,” said B.C. Works Communications Manager Kevin Dobbin.
He said the company was made aware “that rocks had been placed on the road by a third party”, and it was resolved at the meeting to have them removed.
The rocks were removed by the District last week and deposited at the Public Works yard, at a cost of $2,400, which also included the installation of a sign with the notice of the removal of the rocks.
Bossence said after the removal that accessibility is extremely important in relation to urban interface fires (forest fires within close proximity to a populated area), which pose the greatest risk to life and property.
“Any delay in responding to or gaining access for suppression purposes will have a significant impact on the size of the fire, and in turn the amount of resources needed to extinguish it,” said Bossence. “Obviously, the longer it takes for a responding agency to begin fire suppression activities, the more difficult it is to get it under control and extinguish it.”
He said the fire department doesn’t interfere with property owners unless it’s absolutely necessary.
“In general, with education and reasoning, most are receptive to our concerns,” he added.
Minette Bay Lodge’s Howard Mills, responding to the rocks’ removal, which he paid to have situated across the road to prevent access by vehicles, said the opening of the road was courting disaster and would create an even bigger threat of fires breaking out.
He said the blockade had prevented access for vehicles along Rio Tinto’s portion of the road onto his property, while still allowing people on foot to safely explore the area, reducing the risk of fires like the one that broke out over 15 years ago.
“A helicopter had to be sent from Terrace, which first had to fly to Smithers to pick up a dousing bucket,” said Mills. “The provincial fire responders then spent two days with hand-operated water sprays to ensure that the fire didn’t re-ignite.
He said that fire had cost the province and had had the potential of spreading to the town as well.
“This is an unacceptable risk for us and we do not give permission for public access other than on foot, which many enjoy,” said Mills. “We will have to close the road again, using a lockable mechanism which can be unlocked by the fire department whenever needed.”
He said sites such as Radley Park, Hirsch Creek and Hospital Beach are far more suited to revellers.
“As suggested by history, their fire sites are relatively safe,” said Mills.