Yesterday wasn’t the first time a fire that started on the flats has crept onto Chic Sharp’s property.
“It happened once about 15 years ago,” he explains.
Though no one wants a fire nearby, Sharp is thankful it happened when it did.
“The fire is not as devastating in the spring because things are just greening up. The trees are full of moisture and the fuel is generally dead grass and bracken ferns and that kind of thing, so the fire stays low to the ground. As soon as it runs out of fuel and runs into a green area, path or road, the fire goes out.”
This information falls in line with the recent update from the BC Wildfire Services, which notes the fires only fuel was the top grass layer and that the majority of it self-extinguished last night.
As we tour the property at 9 Mile, south of Revelstoke, the scorch marks are visible through the brush. They cut up between Sharp’s home and his neighbours.
Sharp was not actually at home when the fire broke out. But he’s grateful for the quick response from the BC Wildfire Services.
“I was in Nakusp yesterday, and by the time I came home it was under control and nearly out,” Sharp says. “Fire Services got out here and put things out, concentrating on area most dangerous before it went out of control. They are still out there monitoring for hot spots.”
The close call is something Sharp would like to avoid in the future, but the increasing popularity of the flats means the area is seeing more and more activity.
“It’s a serious issue out here because there are parties every weekend on the flats this time of year,” he says. “Some years BC Hydro doesn’t bring the water up, and then there are parties here all summer long, with people having big fires.”
When the area drys out, if a fire got out of control, Sharp and his neighbours may not be so fortunate.
“It’s a whole different story when everything is dry,” he says. Sharp points to one of the several trees whose lower trunks are blackened. “These trees might still die, and if the fire had been in the summer they would burn, and quite dramatically.”
Years ago, dirt bikes and 4 x 4 trucks on the flats were low in number and riders often seemed to ride with more awareness of the sensitive environment they were in.
“The flats there are a drawdown zone, and a nesting habitat and a major bird habitat. At this time of year you have all the geese and the ducks and wetland birds like killdeers that are nesting,” Sharp explains.
Nowadays, Sharp notes, there can be dozens of dirt bikes at a time utilizing the flats.
“It’s not just a couple,” he says. “Sometimes there are thirty to forty bikes and sometimes just as many 4 x 4 trucks out there.”
It has become time, Sharp believes, for BC Hydro to step up.
“I believe most people out here would probably agree that there needs to be no motorized traffic out there,” says Sharp. “It should be accessible to walkers, runners, skiers, that kind of thing. But no motorized traffic and no fires, and BC Hydro should hire someone to police it. If people are caught, then they should be fined.”
For now, Sharp will wait for the water to come up.
Facts on Yesterday’s Grass Fire from the BC Wildfire Services
BC Wildfire Service crews have responded to a grassfire reported yesterday afternoon that is located approximately 12 kilometres southeast of Revelstoke. Crews responded immediately along with the support of the local fire department to ensure that any nearby structures were not threatened.
The final fire perimeter is 25 hectares in size. The fire is now classified as “under control” and a three-person BC Wildfire Service crew is on site today mopping up and patrolling the fire for any smouldering areas.
The fire is suspected to be human-caused and both the RCMP and Compliance and Enforcement have been engaged to investigate.
This serves as a great reminder to use caution when lighting any fire!