Fire still out of control at 280 hectares

Fire still out of control at 280 hectares

Dan Walton

Lyonel Doherty
Oliver Chronicle

The suspected human-caused fire near Gallagher Lake is still burning out of control at 280 hectares.

Although there is no containment yet, there was little overnight growth on Monday, according to BC Wildfire Service.

Fire information officer Kelsey Dunkley said the smoke has dissipated a little bit, but that hasn’t stopped the eight helicopters from going full bore with their water buckets Tuesday morning.

Dunkley said a total of 100 fire personnel are working on the blaze, adding that air tankers have dropped retardant on the east flank of the fire.

Crews will be operating 24 hours a day until further notice, with 20 personnel remaining on site overnight.

Lyonel Doherty photo

An incident management team has been mobilized and is being established on site today.

A structure protection specialist is also on scene assessing residences in the evacuation alert area.

The Oliver Fire Department is assisting BC Wildfire Service with a two-man crew on a water tender for a structural sprinkler system.

In the meantime, an evacuation alert remains in effect for 206 properties on Highway 97, Gallagher Lake Road, James Way, Manuel’s Canyon Road, Enterprise Way, Bruans Road, Sundial Road and McIntyre Creek Road.

Dunkley said they suspect the fire was human caused but can’t be certain.

However, Dale Belvedere, manager of the nearby owl rehabilitation Centre, wonders if the fire was started by humans hiking in the area.

“A lot of people go up there,” she said, adding that hiking is popular in the canyon. She noted that some hikers got lost up there a few weeks ago.

Belvedere pointed out that people are not supposed to go up there because the property is owned by The Nature Trust.

As for the raptors at the centre, they have all been evacuated and taken to a wildlife park in Kamloops.

Belvedere explained that the birds were collected on Sunday night and later driven to the park by volunteers.

She first heard about the fire when a stranger came off the highway and began yelling and screaming about the blaze just behind the centre.

“It was very close to us at the bottom of the canyon. If it had jumped the canyon, the whole place would have gone up (in flames).”

Belvedere said the fire is still burning at the bottom of the canyon.

“At night it is scary to see how much fire is up there.”

She has decided to stay at the centre for security reasons but is ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

“It’s frightening. It’s horrible that we came very close to not being here anymore (after 31 years).”

Sharon Holmes, who lives in Gallagher Lake Village Park, said she feels more relaxed today than she did a couple of days ago.

Lyonel Doherty photo

“Yesterday we didn’t know what to expect and were concerned if the winds changed. But today, we’re waiting for the air show,” she chuckled.

Holmes said she wasn’t aware that the fire started on Sunday evening and only noticed it on Monday when she looked out her window.

She wasn’t afraid the fire would come down to the highway because the wind was pushing it the other way. But she did prepare an emergency kit just in case they had to leave.

Holmes said she has been watching the planes and helicopters all day long.

“It’s just interesting to see what they do and how quickly they can fill up (with water) and return.”

Holmes said she didn’t notice any lightning Sunday night when the fire started. She noted that some people heard what sounded like transformers blowing up in the area.

Right now she feels confident that she won’t be evacuated.

“If the winds change, well, I might be getting concerned.”

Dan Walton