PhotographBy DAVE EAGLES/KTW

Metal work confirmed cause of wildfire near Kamloops

The cause of the Shuswap Road grass fire east of Kamloops has been confirmed.

  • Jul. 25, 2018 7:30 p.m.

Sparks from metal work being done behind a home in the 800-block of Shuswap Road has been confirmed as the cause of the grass fire that burned nearly 550 hectares of land east of Sun Rivers on July 12.

Workers from a construction company hired to complete home renovations were cutting angle iron when sparks ignited the grass about 25 feet away, Kamloops Fire Rescue Chief Fire Prevention Officer Dean Olstad told KTW.

“They were trying to put it out themselves, but then it just became apparent pretty quickly that it was going to be too much for them. Then they called 911 and that’s when we arrived on scene,” Olstad said, noting firefighters did their best to extinguish the blaze, but it escalated from there.

Olstad said KFR is not disclosing the name of the company responsible for the fire. No fines are being pursued.

“We’ve contacted them, gone over procedures, precautions for that type of work in the future just so they can be better [prepared] to prevent it from happening again,” Olstad said.

As per the B.C. fire code, there are a number of precautionary steps that need to be taken when conducting any type of cutting, grinding and welding work, Olstad said.

Ideally, a 15-foot area from where this type of hot works is being conducted should be cleared of any fire hazards. If that can’t be done, the area should be watered down or a fire-resistant blanket or shielding should be used to cover combustibles. Someone must also watch over the job and ensure those fire-prevention measures are working, he said.

“Within four hours, someone should go back to the area and then reassess the area just to ensure there are no hot spots,” Olstad said.

The company didn’t follow all of those steps.

“They missed a few, for sure,” Olstad said. “This isn’t their line of work. They typically sub this type of work out, but it wasn’t a big job, it wasn’t a large component of it, so they thought they could do it themselves.”

Olstad said the company didn’t have anyone watching for a fire start.

“I’m not sure what length of time had gone by, but it was substantial enough that when they did notice it, they tried to [extinguish] it themselves by stepping on it and using shovels and stuff, but it was at such a state that they couldn’t extinguish the fire,” Olstad said.

He noted workers had some protective shields up, but they were not sufficient to stop the sparks from getting into the nearby grasses. It was determined there was no gross negligence on the part of the company, which did take some steps at fire prevention.

Olstad said the fire department enforces the fire code and, while each case is different, generally prefers to achieve compliance through education, though fines are a possibility.

Related: VIDEO: Crews work tirelessly to save eagles caught in Kamloops wildfire

Related: East Shuswap Road wildfire’s fire line being controlled

City of Kamloops bylaws are a quicker and easier option for levying fines, he added. Fines in the fire-prevention bylaw range from $250 to $1,000.

The Shuswap Road fire, aided by the wind and dry conditions, spread quickly up the hillside. Residents of Sun Rivers spent many anxious moments watching the flames and smoke get closer before firefighting efforts from the sky and on the ground kept the blaze at bay.

The BC Wildfire Service had the fire under control in about a day and listed it as inactive after about a week of extinguishing hotspots.

No structures were damaged nor any injuries reported.

Fire information officer Nicole Bonnett said the wildfire service has its own fire investigation into the cause of the Shuswap Road blaze, a probe that is ongoing.

“The data collection has been completed, but the report still has to be written and the investigation team has been on a few other fires in the interim, so it’ll take some time for them to get that report written up,” she said.

Whether those responsible for causing the fire will face a fine from the wildfire service depends on the outcome of that investigation, Bonnett said.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Incumbents and acclaimed mayors win elections all across B.C.’s north

Fraser Lake saw their first female mayor elected

Mayoral results from across B.C.

Voters in 162 municipalities in B.C. set to elect mayor, council, school board and more

Every vote counts: 10 tightest races in B.C.’s municipal elections

Peachland saw their election decided by just one vote

Northwestern BC Hydro transmission line to be refurbished

Replacing poles between Kitimat and Terrace far cheaper than complete new line

Voting set to start in B.C. proportional representation referendum

Two-part ballots now being mailed to all registered voters

Canada Post strikes leaves small shops in the lurch as holidays approach: CFIB

Rotating strikes began in Victoria, Edmonton, Halifax and Windsor

Voter turnout at 36% in B.C.’s municipal election

Vancouver saw 39% turnout, Surrey saw 33%

Harry and Meghan travel in different style on Australia tour

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on day seven of their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.

AP Exclusive: Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair, thesis for sale

The online auction features 22 items from Hawking, including his doctoral thesis on the origins of the universe, with the sale scheduled for 31 October and 8 November.

In Khashoggi case: Saudi calls, ‘body double’ after killing

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called the son of Jamal Khashoggi, the kingdom announced early Monday, to express condolences for the death of the journalist killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by officials that allegedly included a member of the royal’s entourage.

Alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur waives right to preliminary hearing

Bruce McArthur, a 67-year-old self-employed landscaper, has been ordered to stand trial on eight counts of first-degree murder.

N.B. village faces backlash after council raises ‘straight flag’

Chipman Mayor Carson Atkinson says the flag met the village council’s criteria because it “recognizes, accepts and respects the rights of individuals under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

B.C. oncologist changing the face of breast cancer treatment

Dr. Juanita Crook, a Kelowna oncologist, has seen 100 per cent success using brachytherapy to treat breast cancer in some patients.

Most Read