Wildfire disaster averted

Midway Volunteer Fire Department was called into action twice during their first month of providing fire protection to the Kettle Valley.

The potential for serious damage or disaster were averted at two separate Rock Creek area wildfire events within one week thanks to the response and actions of the new rural response capabilities of the Midway Volunteer Fire Department.

On the morning of Monday, July 21 they were called to a wildfire on Myers Creek Road West in Kettle Valley; the second fire occurred at around 4:30 last Sunday afternoon on Hwy 3 west of Johnstone Creek Park.

“Midway Volunteer Fire responded and were able to successfully suppress a fire that could have been as devastating as those in West Kelowna or central Washington below us,” said Midway Fire Chief Osellame of the first incident.

“Without immediate response, the fire would have moved into a large field filled with three foot high dry grass and an uphill grade with no natural control lines.”

Osellame stated that having a fire engine and a 3,000-gallon tender available for suppression was critical, adding they had averted a potential firestorm.

“Given the relative humidity, wind, temperature and fuel at the location and on that day, there is no doubt that a wildland fire that took a ‘run’ there could have had devastating consequences for the residents of Kettle Valley and Midway as the fire travel direction was east/southeast,” Osellame said.

The engine, which is housed in central Kettle Valley, responded in short order. Ten MVFD firefighters, all but one rookie firefighter, attended the event.

Osellame said the Ministry of Forests (MOF) sent an officer to the scene. “The officer was most pleased with what was done to suppress the fire.

MOF had a fire attack crew on the ready to mobilize in case we needed assistance but luckily the task was completed quickly, effectively and efficiently.”

Regarding the fire on Sunday, Osellame told the Times that all MOF crews were dispatched to other fire events and were unavailable to attend, so

Midway Fire responded with 15 members, two engines and a fast attack unit to the Johnstone Creek fire.

“When we first arrived on scene, high temperatures, low relative humidity and extremely dry fuels provided a recipe for rapid fire spread into surface, ladder and aerial fuels. As such, we needed to respond quickly to avert a dangerous and major fire event from occurring.”

Osellame said quick action and really hard work permitted the control of the fire to a manageable area and also enabled the crew to prevent the possible loss of the property owner’s home which was approximately 300 metres from the fire line.

He said crews were out until 10 p.m. at Sunday’s fire.

“Once again, our newest members of the Midway fire department from Kettle Valley and Rock Creek did an outstanding job of containing and extinguishing the major flames and hot spots to a stage where Forestry crews could come and complete mop up. The department response was aided by five nearby residents who did an excellent job of working with us to control the fire.

“Congratulations to them for doing an excellent job of suppressing the fire, protecting the community, the property and the wild land, and for committing to training toward such an important community component.”

The fire chief said the Myers Creek Road fire was started when a lawnmower blade hitting a rock threw a spark into the grass. Cause of the second fire was still undetermined.

“We would like to remind everyone that open burning is not permitted until further notice as per Ministry of Forests regulations. Campfires, while still permitted at this time, must be no more than 0.5 metre by 0.5 metre and a water source and monitoring must be in place. Please ensure you put your campfire out completely. Cut away any high, dry grass around your property to make it more fire safe.”

Anyone who is interested in joining the Midway Volunteer Fire Department to provide an essential and important community service is encouraged to contact the chief at 250-442-9809, the village office (leave name and number) at 250-449-2222, contact any of the current firefighters or come out to a practice any Tuesday night at 7 p.m.

“We need more volunteers to ensure we can maintain our level of response and protection,” Osellame stated.