An aggressive wildfire that spread within 100 metres of the Trail hospital on Tuesday is suspected to be human-caused.
“The key, at this time, seems to be that the fire was not naturally caused,” said Regional Fire Chief Dan Derby Wednesday. “We brought in forestry (BC Wildfire Service) to assist with this because that is their area of expertise, and they’ve been on site helping us all morning.”
The emergency prompted a multi-agency effort that included an overhead attack by a fleet of airtankers and helicopters from the BC Wildfire Service in addition to regional and provincial ground crews.
“The McQuarrie Creek wildfire, estimated to be 1.6 hectares, is currently under control,” Carlee Kachman, from the BC Wildfire Service told the Trail Times Wednesday morning. “That means the fire has received sufficient suppression action to ensure that no further spread of this fire will occur.”
Kachman said two initial attack crews and a BC Wildfire investigator were on site to further action the area alongside a 10-person team from the Trail fire department.
“Currently, the cause is under investigation but suspected to be human-caused,” Kachman confirmed.
“There was no impact to the hospital. There’s a very large rocky fuel break, so again, the fire responded really well to the initial fire suppression efforts that were put in,” she added.
“And we have to definitely appreciate the Trail fire department’s quick response in how they reacted the fire and how they dealt with the fire, it was really wonderful.”
The 9-1-1 came into Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue just after 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 11.
Within minutes a regional crew arrived at the scene, which was located on the upper bench between Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital and JL Crowe Secondary School.
Sixteen firefighters from Station 374 Trail and 12 from Station 372 Warfield stayed at the site until the fire was under control at approximately 11:30 p.m., reported Acting Captain Grant Tyson.
After monitoring the fire overnight, a regional crew was back on the hill by daylight to further action the area.
The BC Wildfire team was expected to remain at the site until the end of the day on Wednesday.
The case will subsequently be turned over to regional department as the fire was within its jurisdiction.
Also part of the coordinated emergency response were the City of Trail, regional environmental and emergency services, the BC Ambulance Service, police officers, and Interior Health.
During the height of firefighting efforts, the lone road to KBRH was shut down to all traffic.
Interior Health advised anyone requiring emergency services to go to the Castlegar hospital, which stayed open all night.
Access to the Trail hospital resumed after midnight.
“Traffic to the hospital will not be restricted, ” Sgt. Wicentowich advised early Wednesday. “But the RCMP ask the public to remain out of the area in order that the fire suppression team may operate at full capacity.”
Pedestrian and vehicle traffic was limited to JL Crowe high school with fire personnel and equipment staged on the road between the two sites.
Additionally, the city closed trails accessed from Sunningdale, Miral Heights and Raven’s Rock until further notice.
“Please remain out of the forested area near the fire and off the trails leading to the area of the fire,” Wicentowich added. “The RCMP will be monitoring the area for anyone who may be interfering with the fire suppression efforts.”
With very little rain in the region since June, local landscape is tinder dry.
Just last week, BC Conservation Officer Blair Thin told the Trail Times the service was regularly finding people lighting fires even though a ban has been in place for months.
(The service patrols fire zones from Arrow and Kootenay Lakes to the Boundary for the Southeast Fire Centre)
“For whatever reason people believe the fires they are having are safe fires,” he said. “It’s still fire season out there, the bush around us is burning, and it just takes a spark.”