Local fire officials asking public to be vigilant

Two small fires over the weekend were extinguished by Cranbrook fire department.

Cranbrook Fire and Emergency Services responded to two small fires near the city over the weekend and while both were not significant enough to threaten any structures, officials are warning that conditions are still extremely hot and dry.

The first, reported on Saturday evening outside a neighbourhood near Parkland Middle School, appeared to be human-caused, but quick action from local residents and Cranbrook firefighting personnel extinguished the flames before anything took off.

“It was in a pretty heavy residential area as well, which is dangerous, but fortunate that there’s a lot of person traffic in the area and they noticed it when it was quite small,” said Scott Driver, Deputy Director, Fire and Emergency Services. “So multiple residents phoned us, got us coming to the fire and did their best to extinguish it and when we got on scene, we were able to fully extinguish that fire and put it right out.”

On Sunday afternoon, a small compost pile spontaneously combusted in a forested area near the Park Royal neighbourhood, Driver said.

“The wind sort of fanned it to start into a brush fire, which, again, was quite small,” he said. “People in the area noticed it, phoned us in and we got there quickly and were able to put it out.”

While both fires were small and extinguished quickly, it only underscores the tinder-like conditions in the city and surrounding region. The city issued a campfire ban on July 6, following suit with a campfire ban that was announced by the Southeast Fire Centre on the same day. As the wildfires continued to grow in the BC Interior, a province-wide ban was eventually instituted.

Driver says Fire and Emergency Services were getting some campfire-related calls at the beginning of the bans, but most calls now are involving smoke, which is just as important to report.

“Our call volume over public concerns for smoke is going up, which is very reasonable considering what’s in the news all day every day at this point,” Driver said, “and by no means are we discouraging that awareness and interest; we’re actually encouraging people to let us know very early on if they think there’s something going on in the forest or in the residential areas where they think a fire might be starting.

“…We’re more than happy to come down, check things out and make sure that there is no fire and if there is, we get there at an early stage where we can control it with the staff and equipment that we have.”

The municipal campfire ban joins all other types of burning prohibitions including open burning, fireworks and tiki torches. Basically, if it causes a spark, consider it banned.

Driver also encouraged residents to be mindful about other activities, such as using motorbikes or ATVs in dry grassy fields, as hot exhaust systems and machine parts could potentially be the ignition source for a fire.

“To be truthful, we’re discouraging anything that puts the forest at risk,” Driver said, noting that wildfire fighting resources around the province are stretched thin due to battling the large blazes in the BC Interior.

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