Burnt grass shows just how close the Snowy Mountain wildfire came to claiming this person’s home. With the assistance of firefighters, this homeowner’s property was spared. Jordyn Thomson/Western News

New reporter jumps right into wildfire season

Jordyn Thomson recounts her helicopter tour in September with BC Wildfire Service

My time at the Western News in 2018 was brief, having only joined the team mid-August, but I did have the opportunity to cover an especially important story that I’d like to highlight at this year’s end.

BC Wildfire Services (BCWS) reached out and invited me on a helicopter tour of some of the ongoing wildfires in early September. Their communications team wanted to use the opportunity to show off some of the wins they had this season with some of the larger wildfires in the area, which led to my story ‘Myths and facts about fighting B.C. wildfires’ in our Sept. 5 edition.

Related: Myths and facts about fighting B.C. wildfires

I jumped at the chance to cover this — and not just because I had never been in a helicopter before — but because at this time, we were just coming down from a hellish summer that saw the skies turn to grey and brown and the hillsides swallowed by flames. Those here in the summer will remember the numerous air quality warnings that were issued, the highway closures and evacuations, and flames that seemed to lick at every corner of the region.

Steep and loose terrain challenged crews as they battled the Snowy Mountain Wildfire. The blaze covered 17,670 hectares and took two months to control. Jordyn Thomson/Western News

The team first took me over one of the more notorious fires in the region, the Snowy Mountain wildfire. This blaze began July 17, is still on the wildfires of note list and spans 19,226 hectares, challenging crews with steep and treacherous terrains.

Stephen Kada, an Australia-native who worked as a wildfire information officer with BCWS over the summer, explained that much of their efforts of fire suppression on Snowy Mountain involved helicopters making bucket drops. Depending on the distance to the nearest water source, these helicopters made 50 to 60 drops a day.

Related: Wildfire mitigation work helps restore sheep habitat in South Okanagan

We toured above the Old Tom Creek wildfire, which spanned 1,380 hectares and began on Aug. 15. As of Sept. 13, BCWS listed the Old Tom Creek wildfire as under control, again meaning that this battle was ongoing for nearly a month. It should be mentioned that throughout the wildfire season in B.C., firefighters worked shifts of two weeks on and three days off, usually putting in more than 12 hours per day.

The Old Tom Creek wildfire began on July 15 and took nearly one month to control. It spanned 1,380 hectares. Jordyn Thomson/Western News

Related: Caution urged as people head back into wildfire affected areas in B.C.

Finally our tour took us over the Cool Creek wildfire, which started on Aug. 15 and spanned 13,626 hectares. At the time, this fire was still classified as out of control and it’s widespread reaches challenged teams.

As of Sept. 16, BCWS listed the Cool Creek Wildfire under control, meaning it also took crews a month to all-but extinguish this blaze. For those curious, all three of these wildfires were started by lightning.

So in this area alone, crews had to battle not one, not two, but three ongoing wildfires at the same time. I cannot imagine the stress and pressure they must have felt, as our only line of defence from fire sweeping into communities and destroying homes and livelihoods.

At the time of this helicopter tour, the Cool Creek wildfire was still listed as out of control by BCWS. This fire burned for nearly a month and spanned 13,626 hectares. Jordyn Thomson/Western News

Enough cannot be said about all the courageous firefighters who volunteered their time and put their safety on the line to fight these fires. Thousands of people from dozens of organizations (local, provincial, national and international) came together to help this province in a time of crisis, and to them we are indebted.

So take a moment this holiday season to remember what this area looked like in the summer months, and be thankful these brave men and women answered the call in our time of need. And I’m sure they will be around next summer to answer the call when the inevitable wildfire season begins again.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
JordynThomson 
Send Jordyn Thomson an email.
Like the Western News on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

UPDATED: Highway 97 closed between Summerland and Penticton

Accident closes highway in both directions; reopening expected at 10 p.m.

Keremeos interactive business map now online

The map features a variety of businesses and services within the Keremeos area

Now hiring: cannabis consultants in Penticton

The BC Liquor Distribution Branch fair is on July 2 at the Penticton Lakeside Resort and Conference

B.C. premier says Greyhound replacement news could come shortly

Province is working with the private sector to find a solution, says premier

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: mix of sun and clouds

Environment Canada is calling for a chance of rain and risk of thunderstorms across the Okanagan tonight

VIDEO: Killer whale steals fisherman’s catch off North Coast

Fishing duel results in eager orca snagging salmon in Prince Rupert

Kelowna Rocket invited to Hockey Canada National Under-17 Development Camp

The 16-year-old was selected by the Rockets 18th overall at the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft

Fate of accused in Canadian couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

Okanagan RCMP serve up slices and support for Special Olympics B.C.

Last years inaugural campaign raised more than $12,000

Car window smashed with a bike in Kelowna

A staffer working in the area on the incident says vandalism is a reoccurring problem

Kelowna Mayor’s walking tour of Rutland cancelled

Growing issues surrounding supportive housing leads to rescheduled meeting with concerned resident

Hergott: Moral obligations and your will

Lawyer Paul Hergott discusses wills and moral obligation

Shots fired at metal sign in Central Okanagan

A road sign was shot at and damaged, but nobody was hurt

Okanagan marathoner bests former Canucks at Vancouver race

Vik Bains raced Daniel and Henrik Sedin and finished just ahead at the 2019 Scotiabank Half Marathon

Most Read