Province investigating possible human causes for Hirsch FSR fire

The fire measured 2.7 hectares when it was brought under control

The BC Wildfire Service said human error was most likely responsible for the 2.7-hectare wildfire that burned outside of Kitimat on Sunday.

The wildfire, which started 13 kilometres northeast of Kitimat along the Hirsch Forrest Service Road (FSR), was quickly brought under control.

BC Wildfire Service’s Northwest Fire Centre fire information officer Carolyn Bartos described the fire as having started “on an industrial right-of-way, adjacent to the North Hirsch FSR near a heavily forested area.”

Bartos said the first call came in at 1.48 p.m. on Sunday and was made by a Kitimat resident who spotted the plume of smoke rising over the valley at the base of Mount Elizabeth.

An Initial Attack (IA) crew of three BCWFS firefighters was immediately dispatched from Terrace – this is a small unit of firefighters that moves quickly using a truck that carries pumps, hoses and water.

“If they can catch the fire when it’s small, that’s what they will do,” said Bartos.

The IA crew arrived on site and determined that more resources would be needed, after which the 20-member Firebirds crew from Terrace was dispatched to assist in fighting the fire.

She said a water bomber and a helicopter were deployed but weren’t necessary as the Firebirds, the IA crew and a “handful of industry personnel with heavy machinery” were able to bring the fire under control.

On Monday afternoon Bartos said the fire’s status was changed to “being held” at 6.08 p.m. on Sunday evening

“This indicates that sufficient suppression action has been taken and the fire is not likely to spread,” said Bartos.

“The crews are actively patrolling and carrying out mop-up activities, cleaning up the site and extinguishing any areas that are still burning, or cooling the ground. They will be on site until it’s considered out.”

She said natural resource officers from the B.C. Compliance and Enforcement Branch would be conducting an origin of cause investigation to determine how the fire started.

She said Compliance and Enforcement aren’t called in for every wildfire, only for fires where it is suspected human error might have been involved.

District of Kitimat fire chief Trent Bossence said the DOK was informed about the fire at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

“We contacted BCWFS and were assured that they didn’t need our assistance. We did go up there to monitor the fire – the wildfire crew were well equipped,” said Bossence.

He said the quick response by the IA crew and the Firebirds was key in bringing the fire under control as quickly as they did.

“The preferred outcome is that they put the fire out before it gets out of control.”

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