A lit cigarette tossed from a passing car is believed to be the cause of a grass fire which was only held to a ditch by the quick action of passersby in Salmon Arm on April 19. (Pixabay image)

A lit cigarette tossed from a passing car is believed to be the cause of a grass fire which was only held to a ditch by the quick action of passersby in Salmon Arm on April 19. (Pixabay image)

Passersby fight Salmon Arm roadside grass fire believed started by flicked cigarette

Dry conditions prompt warning from resident, fire department

Quick work from passersby stopped a fire alongside a Salmon Arm road from spreading out of control.

Stephanie Brady, the first person on the scene, said a discarded cigarette was to blame for the blaze.

Brady was on her way to the bank, heading north on Auto Road SE through a rural area just beyond Salmon Arm’s industrial park at around 3 p.m. on April 19. She said she saw someone in a black truck in front of her flick something out of their window. By the time she passed where it landed, smoke was already rising from dead vegetation in the ditch.

Brady grabbed a blanket she keeps in her vehicle for her dogs and rushed to try to smother the fire. By then, flames were already visible and leaping down the ditch towards her. She said the ditch was choked with dead plants including grass, leaves and tree limbs. She said she began screaming for help and the outside of her shoes caught fire as she tried to hold the blaze in check and stop it from reaching nearby trees.

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One man stopped his car and called 911 and another began beating on the flames with his jacket. Brady said the fire stopped spreading when some Fortis employees stopped their truck and sprayed the flames with a fire extinguisher. The fire department arrived shortly thereafter to finish off the attack but Brady left to get medical attention after having breathed in some smoke. She said she was feeling better already on April 20, although her lungs were irritated; the flames had not made it through her shoes or clothes to seriously burn her.

Having seen the speed at which flames can roar through the underbrush, Brady plans to pick up a fire extinguisher to keep with her in her car.

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Although the wildfire danger signs may only read low to moderate across much of Southern B.C., Brady said people need to take the dry conditions seriously and begin acting like it is the middle of summer immediately.

Salmon Arm Fire Chief Brad Shirley echoed Brady’s call for caution, noting his department had already responded to a number of grass fires this year which have grown quickly in dry and windy conditions. He said that discarding cigarettes unsafely is illegal and people should be aware of the devastation it can lead to.



jim.elliot@saobserver.net

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