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

Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada Highway widening in B.C.

Revelstoke-area stretch first awarded under new union deal

WildsafeBC comes to the Okanagan to reduce wildlife conflict

Bear activity on the Westside has been an issue in the past few weeks

Line up for Revelstoke Summer Street Fest announced

The line up for Revelstoke Summer Street Fest has been announced! Starting… Continue reading

Revelstoke Secondary School celebrates Pride Day

Students at Revelstoke Secondary School celebrated their first ever Pride Day on… Continue reading

BC Book Award finalists coming to Revelstoke Library

Two finalists of BC Book prizes will be visiting and reading at… Continue reading

Killer of Calgary mother, daughter gets no parole for 50 years

A jury found Edward Downey guilty last year in the deaths of Sara Baillie, 34, and five-year-old Taliyah Marsman

Body of missing snowmobiler recovered from Great Slave Lake

Police confirm the body is that of one of three missing snowmobilers

North Okanagan tests out two $10/day childcare sites

Katrine Conroy came to Vernon to tour universal child care prototype sites, including the one at Maven Lane

Okanagan medical cannabis shop shutting doors

Herb’s Health Centre has been operating without a city business licence for nearly a year

Toddler seriously injured after falling from Okanagan balcony

RCMP are investigating after a two-year-old boy fell from the balcony of an apartment in Kelowna

Witness says Kelowna man on trial for murder admitted to the killing

Steven Pirko is charged in the killing of Christopher Ausman in 2014

Bucking bulls return to Okanagan raceway Sunday

Bull Riders Canada returns to the South Okanagan with some of the top riders in Canada

Okanagan city to give out fines for sitting on sidewalk

Residents of Penticton will soon be fined for sitting or laying on sidewalks

Is vegan food a human right? Ontario firefighter battling B.C. blaze argues it is

Adam Knauff says he had to go hungry some days because there was no vegan food

Most Read