Williams Lake Fire Chief Des Webster said the seven wild land fires his department has responded to in the last few days have all been human caused.
“I would like to remind people of the unseasonably dry conditions right now and be vigilant with any burning they might be doing on their property,” Webster told the Tribune Monday.
So far the department responded to a grass fire behind Collier Place off Mackenzie Avenue, three grass fires in Boitanio Park, one on Moon Avenue and one off the end of Westridge Drive.
Webster said starting on Wednesday, March 18, the fire department will begin its annual prescribed burns and will continue with them for the next couple of weeks. The schedule is on page two in Wednesday’s Tribune.
Williams Lake Indian Band’s natural resource manager Aaron Higginbottom said the band’s fire department has begun prescribed burns at Sugar Cane and will continue throughout the week.
The band has been doing the prescribed burning in spring as part of a three-year-management burn plan with the Ministry of Forests.
Under the Indian Act, First Nations have the ability to pass a burning law, but most haven’t, according to the band’s economic development officer Kirk Dressler.
“We are in the process of developing an open burning law under our land code,” Dressler said.
“We’ve transitioned out of the Indian Act to this form of sectoral self-government, so we have jurisdiction to develop our own laws now and that gives us more flexibility and creativity.”
Presently WLIB has a full fleet of heavy equipment and a new fire truck.
Nine people are on the volunteer fire department and all of them have been undergoing training.
“There are crews here dedicated to doing the open burning and we have a 300-gallon tank which is part of our hydro-seeder that we bring along with us with 150 feet of hose,” Dressler said. “On site we’ve always got fire suppression availability.”
Once the opening burning law is finalized, the band will do its own permitting, set burning conditions and impose sanctions on those who fail to comply with the regulations.
Higginsbottom said the crew submits requests to Chief and Council, gathers approval, sends notice to the community via flyers, radio, and eventually in person as they enter private yards to let them know to close windows or give people with breathing difficulties a chance to leave and visit family members.
“We also inform our neighbours, businesses and finally the Cariboo Fire Centre that we are about to light up areas within the reserve,” he said.
“Our hope is that there will be less and less people lighting fires on their own without the benefit of equipment and personnel on hand to assist if the fire may get out of control. There havebeen too many instances of people attempting to burn in poor conditions and having the local fire department or wild land fire suppression crews attending these fires.”