Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka is calling for a campfire ban in the Southeast Fire Centre. Phil McLachlan photo/Black Press file.

Kootenay MLA calls for fire ban in the southern interior

Tom Shypitka calls for a campfire ban citing concerns over dry conditions, high temperatures

A Kootenay MLA is calling for a fire ban in the southern corner of the province as the region continues to experience dry conditions and high temperatures.

Tom Shypitka, the BC Liberal MLA for Kootenay East, issued a public call for a ban, citing fire danger concerns in the South Country around Lake Koocanusa, as well as the exponential growth from the Doctor Creek wildfire near Canal Flats.

With a crown land closure in the Koocanusa region, Shypitka also expressed concerns that campers would be pushed further into the backcountry, which would put a further strain on enforcement initiatives from the BC Conservation Officer Service and Natural Resource Officers.

PLEASE SHARE.
I am pleading with the BC Wildfire Services – Southeast Fire Centre to consider a CAMPFIRE BAN in this…

Posted by Tom Shypitka on Tuesday, August 25, 2020

“We’re only a week or two away from the summer season so to speak,” Shypitka said. “I think it would be proactive and we’ve seen what happened with the Doctor Creek fire, with the winds picking up…so I think if we can get past the long weekend and put some conservative measures in place to avoid what is inevitable in this area; we’ve been lucky for years, I think we’d be really well served if we just put a fire ban in place.”

Within the context of the Southeast Fire Centre, Shpyitka noted that conditions in the Newgate area or the Elk Valley can be wildly different from those in the West Kootenay.

“I think we need to look at specific areas instead of the region as a whole,” he said.

There are currently 27 wildfires burning in the Southeast Fire Centre, the largest being the Doctor Creek wildfire burning at an estimated 4,500 hectares southwest of Canal Flats.

Discovered on Aug. 18, the Doctor Creek fire has been burning in the Findlay Creek area, growing exponentially due to high winds earlier this week. An area restriction issued by the BC Wildfire Service is in place, while the Regional District of East Kootenay also issued an Evacuation Order in the area covering recreation camping sites and private properties.

There are currently 155 firefighters, eight helicopters, and nine pieces of heavy equipment working on the wildfire, as of Thursday, Aug. 27.

The Talbott Creek wildfire in the West Kootenay is another significant blaze that is estimated at 256 hectares. The fire, discovered on Aug. 17, is burning near Vallican and has triggered an evacuation alert by the Regional District of Central Kootenay.

There are 96 firefighters working on suppression efforts, along with seven helicopters and 17 pieces of heavy equipment.

All told, the Southeast Fire Centre has experienced 177 wildfires this season.



trevor.crawley@cranbrooktownsman.com

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