Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff had just wrapped up her report to Council Monday afternoon, opening with a reminder to local residents to be “very, very careful” not to be the cause of a wildfire in or near the community.
And then Council chambers went dark — and it quickly became apparent her words were somewhat prophetic.
The sudden loss of power was later confirmed by FortisBC to be the result of crews “de-energizing some of our power poles” at the request of the Oliver fire department, which was battling a small wildfire on Black Sage Road near the Oliver Landfill.
“One of the things I want people to be extremely careful of is fires,” Mayor McKortoff said in her report. “We don’t want people tossing cigarette butts out or having a campfire and not putting it out properly when they’re camping or having a fire just on your property or on your beach or something and just ignoring it.
“I think we’ve dealt enough disaster this year and we’re trying to keep our residents and visitors safe in Osoyoos. Please be very, very careful.”
Although the cause of the Black Sage fire was not released, a second fire started about the same time is believed to be “human-caused.”
The Black Sage Road fire, involving scrub grass in a field north of the road, was reported just after 2 p.m. By 2:30, the BC Wildfire Service was reporting it was on-scene with two airtankers, a helicopter and seven firefighters to assist the Oliver department, which retained jurisdiction.
FortisBC crews were also called to the scene.
“At the request of the local fire department, FortisBC had to de-energize some of our power poles and it affected over 5,000 customers in Osoyoos,” reported FortisBC spokesperson Diane Sorace. “The power was off for about 20 minutes or so.”
The BC Wildfire Service also responded to a wildfire northwest of Allison Lake, located about 25 km north of Princeton. The fire was reported to be small — less than a hectare in size — and suspected to be human-caused.
The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen wants to limit the number of fires caused by carelessly-tossed cigarette butts. It yesterday provided information on its Facebook page suggesting how people who see a tossed butt can report the offence.
It is encouraging motorists and others call 800 663-5555 toll-free — or *5555 on a cellphone — to report the incident.
If possible, include information about the date and time of the incident, the licence plate number, make and model of the vehicle, location and the vehicle’s direction of travel in your report.
The BC Wildfire Service is listing conditions in the South Okanagan as “High Danger,” meaning forest fuels are very dry and the fire risk is serious.
“New fires may start easily, burn vigorously, and challenge fire suppression efforts,” the service says.