Firearms suspected cause of small forest fire west of Harrison Lake

Blaze currently 50% contained by provincial crews

BC Wildfire Service crews are still responding to a small forest fire on the west side of Harrison Lake, 8.5 kilometres north of the Village of Harrison.

Lake-goers and locals noticed the blaze yesterday afternoon when smoke was visible billowing out of the hillside.

BC Wildfire Service fire information officer Donna MacPherson said the fire hasn’t grown since Monday, and the size estimate was decreased to 0.4 hectares on Tuesday from the initial estimate of 0.5. She said the smoke can make it difficult to initially estimate the size of forest fires.

On Tuesday, 11 firefighters were working to contain the blaze on the steep – but accessible – hillside, and currently have it 50 per cent contained.

BC Wildfire Service started getting fire reports in the early afternoon on Wednesday and responded immediately by dispatching an air tanker group and two helicopters, while a 13-firefighter provincial ground crew made their way to the fire.

At the time, the fire was burning ‘rank 2’ – a low vigor ground fire that sticks to shrubbery and grass and can smoke heavily, creating the billows visual from the Village.

“It wasn’t an aggressive fire in anyway,” said MacPherson. “They are making really good progress on it yesterday and today.”

Since Monday the fire hasn’t grown or moved in any direction. In fact, it was fairly quiet Tuesday morning – perfect for crews to get in closer and further contain the blaze.

With temperature rising in the afternoon it’s possible that smoke will become visible again from the Village, but according to MacPherson that’s not unexpected.

“Fire responds to the temperature of the day and the wind of the day,” she said. “So typically a fire burns more actively in the afternoon than it does in the morning because the air is cooler and the air is quieter [at that time.]”

“The crews are making really good progress, they’re getting around the fire, right now it’s not growing and they anticipate a good product out of today.”

Responsible forestry

Fire crews found sufficient evidence to deem the cause of the fire to be firearm use, said MacPherson.

“Whatever spark happened in that area, we suspect it was from the shell casings that we found,” she said. “It wasn’t illegal for them to use their firearms, so it’s not that we’re saying don’t use your firearms…but responsible fire arms use would involve being careful where you’re shooting.”

The forest dries out in layers, she explained. Trees, with their big roots, take longer to dry out, but the dead grasses, twigs and leaves on the surface of the forest floor can become dry and crispy even after one hot or windy day.

“When it gets to that level, any spark can start a fire,” she said. “If the people had of stayed around a little bit and just watched what was going on, perhaps they would of been able to stop the fire before it grew to this size.”

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