Documents obtained by Kamloops This Week show that a wildfire that burned more than 2,700 hectares northwest of the city last year was ignited after a man tried to scare a bear off his property.
The Allie Lake wildfire was sparked on May 23, 2018, in the Deadman River Valley just south of Vidette, approximately 60 kilometres northwest of Kamloops.
The fire threatened nearby homes and ripped through 2,700 hectares of forest and ranch land in the area, forcing the regional district to order the evacuation of 14 nearby addresses and put another 51 addresses on alert.
BC Wildfire Service investigators determined the fire was started by the use of a “bear banger” explosive, used by a property caretaker to scare off a problem bear.
The caretaker tried to scare the bear away by yelling, but was unsuccessful and fired the explosive from a gun.
Sparks from the bear banger ignited dry grass on the property and the fire took off, engulfing a shed as the caretaker attempted to extinguish it using buckets of water. It later jumped across nearby Deadman-Vidette Road and spread to the north.
The caretaker called authorities at about 3:40 p.m. One hour later, the fire was estimated to have reached 20 hectares in size, with a large column of smoke forming overhead. By 6 p.m., the fire was estimated at 50 hectares in size and growing.
Aircraft and ground crews attacked the fire and, by 8 p.m., 60 per cent of the fire had been surrounded with retardant.
By May 25, 2018 — two days after the fire started — the blaze had reached 1,600 hectares in size. By May 27, 2018, when the fire had matured to 2,700 hectares, more than 130 firefighters, 11 helicopters, 10 pieces of heavy equipment and air tankers were still required to fight the flames. Evacuation orders and notices remained in effect until May 29.
A copy of the report completed by Natural Resource Officer Jordan Pertus states that no non-compliance under the Wildfire Act was found to have taken place and no action was taken, also noting the caretaker was diligent in his efforts to extinguish the fire.
Singing Lands Ranch was one of the properties evacuated.
Owner Erin Kendall spoke to KTW after the evacuation order came down, saying it was the second year she and her family had been evacuated due to wildfire.
While 2019 has been a quiet year for wildfires, 2018 was a record-setter, with more than 2,100 wildfires burning approximately 1.3 million hectares of land, costing the provincial government $615 million.