Three fire halls and two air tankers responded to the call on May 12 and stayed on site for four hours. Guy Bertrand photo

Three fire halls and two air tankers responded to the call on May 12 and stayed on site for four hours. Guy Bertrand photo

UPDATED: Sunningdale wildfire suspected to be human-caused

Regional fire rescue responded to the wildland fire just after 2 p.m. Saturday

Trail had its first wildfire of the season in the upper bench of Sunningdale on Saturday.

“The origin is unknown at this time, however, it is likely human-caused,” said Fire Information Officer Ashley Davidoff.

One officer and an Initial Attack Crew from theBC Wildfire Service were deployed along with two air tankers to action the fire in coordination with the regional fire department.

The 9-1-1 came into Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue shortly after 2 p.m. with crews arriving nearby at the city’s water tower by 2:30 p.m.

“The first call came from Oasis,” explained Captain Grant Tyson. “We went to take a look from Teck, and saw there was a lot of smoke, so we knew it had to be a fire because there’s nothing back there.”

Fifteen firefighters – seven from Station 374 Trail, five from Station 372 Warfield, and three from Station 375 Montrose – responded and stayed on scene for four hours.

“Upon arrival we discovered a two-hectare wildland fire,” Tyson noted.

He said there was some heavy Rank 3, which refers to a moderately vigorous surface fire, which was unexpected given the recent snow melt and significant rainfall last week.

“A couple of trees went right up,” Tyson added. “We had air support, which was fantastic because they guarded it for us, and we were were lucky because we were able to shuttle water down to it.”

The fire was under control at 6:15 p.m.

Davidoff advises the public that prevention means stopping wildfires before they start.

Discarded cigarette butts, campfires, hot exhaust pipes coming into contact with dry grass and vegetation, power tools (such as chainsaws), Tiki torches and even discarded glass can all ignite a wildfire.

It is important to exercise caution when in the outdoors, not only when enjoying a campfire or off-roading in the backcountry, but also in using tools and handling, storing and disposing of materials and fuels.

Although the Saturday wildfire origin remains undetermined, it serves a reminder about B.C.’s new fines put into effect in March. The government increased some wildfire-related penalties up to $100,000 to help with fire prevention and discourage irresponsible off-road vehicle use.

All off-road vehicles (ORV) are now required to have a spark arrestor installed to reduce wildfire risks when operating on Crown land. A spark arrestor is a small screen or other device that is installed in an exhaust system to stop sparks or other exhaust residue from exiting the tailpipe.

A contravention could result in a violation ticket fine of $460 or an administrative monetary penalty of up to $10,000 if an ORV without a spark arrestor is operating at a time or place where there is a risk of a wildfire starting.

If a wildfire starts, the operator could receive a violation ticket fine of $575, an administrative monetary penalty of up to $10,000, or a court fine up to $1,000,000 and/or up to three years in jail. The person responsible could also be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.