In a time of extreme fire danger, Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire and Rescue was put to the test on the weekend.
Regional fire and rescue crews extinguished a series of three intentionally set fires in Marsh Creek near Fruitvale on Friday, and another blaze on Tamarac Avenue in Trail on Saturday.
The first call came in at around 5 p.m. Friday, and regional firefighters from Trail, Montrose, and Fruitvale responded to a wildfire on Red Road near Marsh Creek Rd.
The fire was under control within a half hour, however, while regional crews and a BC Wildfire team were conducting an investigation, a second fire was set at 8:09 p.m.
“This time, it was a wood pile that the homeowner had purchased to heat their home for the upcoming winter,” said captain Grant Tyson. “Luckily one engine was still on scene with the investigation crew and was able to hold the fire until other resources arrived.”
Just over an hour later, the third fire of the night was lit back in the forest.
Fire crews were still on scene, so the flames were knocked down quickly and extinguished by 10 p.m.
“After (Friday’s) three calls, in the last seven days regional fire rescue has responded to six fires on Marsh Creek Rd.,” said Tyson. “We are on the edge of being ‘EXTREME’ on the BC Wildfire Danger Rating and are working hard to find the cause of these fires.”
Trail RCMP is leading the investigation, and Sgt. Mike Wicentowich said progress is being made.
“We have an investigative team put together … we have some good information and we’re going to be following up on it and hopefully this will come to a resolution.”
Wicentowich warns that people on social media should refrain from making assumptions and accusations before an arrest has been made.
“At this time, there’s a social media campaign about who it is, but I’d like to advise the public there has been no suspect identified at this time, we’re still working on that,” he said. “And we urge them not to blame people that may not be involved.”
Fire Chief Dan Derby said they were very appreciative of the support and cooperation they were getting from the RCMP and BC Wildfire service in the investigation.
“From a community perspective, we’re doing everything we can to respond to the incidents as they happen and from a community safety perspective, we are doing everything we can.”
A resident from across the Columbia River noticed a billowing plume of black smoke emanating from West Trail and made the call to the fire department around 8 a.m.
The fire started in a pile of tires between two homes on Tamarac Avenue, then quickly spread to the buildings. A duty crew from Trail was on scene in three minutes.
Additional apparatuses from Station 374 Trail and Station 372 Warfield assisted, and the suspicious blaze was out by 9:30 a.m.
“As to how it started is unclear at this point, but because of the tires being stored immediately adjacent to the building, and the fire starting at the base of the pile of tires, the fire spread quickly up one side of the building and into the attic,” said Derby.
Because of the steep location, accessing the area can be difficult, as Tamarac Avenue is a fragmented street along the slope of West Trail. Also, its close proximity to other houses and wooded areas in times of extreme heat can be potentially disastrous.
Fortunately an off-duty firefighter spotted the blaze and was able to assist the Trail crew in identifying the location, attacking it, and suppressing it quickly and successfully.
“One of our members was going home from work, and saw the smoke and was able to call back to the station and give them really good detail, and he actually got back to the station in time so we had a four-man response,” said Derby.
“The nice part is the guys just drove straight in, so it worked out really well and we were able to stretch a line and hold it and we had good support from all our members in Trail and Warfield.”
Anyone with information on the suspicious fires is asked to contact the Trail RCMP.