A helicopter buckets water to the Patterson Creek fire in Spallumcheen Thursday. For a video from the blaze visit vernonmorningstar.com (Jennifer Smith/Morning Star)

Dedicated crew tackles wildfire

It was a call Ian Cummings dreaded, but that didn’t stop him from springing into action.

At around 2 p.m. Thursday, reports of a fire were received on the hillside above Highway 97A and Hutley Road. Spallumcheen became the latest community in B.C. left vulnerable to the unpredictable nature of flames and smoke.

“We’re all on edge right now, the public and first responders,” said Cummings, Armstrong-Spallumcheen fire chief.

However, an immediate call was put out to the department’s volunteer crew.

“They came in after 2 p.m. when many of them are at work and there was a fantastic response,” said Cummings.

With the hot temperature and dry conditions, Cummings also realized more resources would be needed. He quickly reached out to the Coldstream, BX-Swan Lake and Enderby departments and the B.C. Wildfire Service, which provided an air response.

On top of this were RCMP officers, paramedics and Spallumcheen municipal employees who established an emergency operations centre.

“The co-operation and professionalism displayed by everyone made this situation easier,” said Cummings.

By early evening Thursday, the decision was made to put about 200 homes on evacuation alert.

“I’m pretty stressed. I only bought this place a month ago,” said Chelaine McInroy, a resident of Belva’s Mobile Home Park, Thursday night.

“It made it a little easier to pack up because everything was still in boxes, but it’s obviously very stressful. This is our home.”

On Friday morning, the evacuation alert was lifted, but the firefighters will remain on scene throughout the weekend.

“Now comes the long hours of the dirt, bugs and heat, looking for hot spots,” said Cummings.

While remaining focused on the task at hand, there has been some time for reflection.

“Every call you go out on, there’s always challenges but we train really hard. This is no more or no less than anything else. The biggest challenge was access,” said Cummings.

The cause of the fire is still being determined.

richard@vernonmorningstar.com