by Dave Preston
Peachland Fire and Rescue Service has been receiving numerous calls over the past couple of weeks about smoke behind Peachland Elementary School.
Fire Chief Grant Topham said he wants residents to remain vigilant, but the smoke near the Trepanier Creek Gorge is there for a very good reason.
“Some of that property has been a fire hazard over the years,” said Topham.
The property is a privately owned piece of land on the south side of Trepanier Creek and directly behind the school. It has been the scene of numerous bush parties in the past.
It has also been the scene of a number of fires.
The latest incident took place in August when no less than four suspicious fires were discovered. One of the fires was next to Chidley Road and waS threatening to move uphill towards homes on Desert Pines Avenue.
Other fires were located and knocked by firefighters behind the school.
“We were able to contain the fires,” said Topham. “We were lucky.”
Topham said “transients” and “people lighting fires” has been an ongoing problem on and near the property for many years.
Following the August fires, Topham had discussions with the owner of the property about the extreme fire hazard in the area.
“We were successful in getting the owner of the property to do some fuel mitigation work,” said Topham.
Local company Tony Wright Contracting was hired to clean up the property, which involves cutting down dead and diseased trees, removing ladder fuels from healthy trees and cleaning up debris from the forest floor.
The work, which has been ongoing for several weeks, includes burning of debris piles on days when the venting index is acceptable, according to Topham.
“I always worried about a fire going up the canyon,” said Topham, who is pleased the property owner is taking care of the fire hazard.
Topham said workers at the Ponderosa Golf Course will also be conducting some burning over the winter.
Although open burning must be done with a permit, which allows the fire department to have advance notice, Topham said he appreciates the public remaining vigilant.
Knowing there is permitted open burning going on in an area is good for the public, according to Topham, but he added, “Don’t hesitate to call if you’re not sure.”