Though the Two Mile Road wildfire above Mara Lake may be a sight to behold, authorities ask that curious boaters keep away.
“I saw a boat driving through while a helicopter was bucketing,” said an exasperated Sicamous Fire Chief Brett Ogino on day three of battling the blaze south of his community. “It just blows me away that they would even think that’s OK.”
Sicamous RCMP and Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Shuswap Station 106 crews have been out on the water since firefighting efforts began on July 20, attempting to keep boaters away from the area of the lake where BC Wildfire Service Helicopters and planes refill.
“We’re having the same problems where the boaters were told to stay on the one side of the lake and they kept on creeping closer and closer to the fire, so we had to basically push them back…, ” said Station 106 leader Rob Sutherland, noting on July 21, a water bomber was unable to refill due to boaters being in the way. “It was a big scramble to get everybody pushed back again.”
Sutherland said when boaters are told to back away, they’ve been cooperative.
“It’s just people not really realizing you get too close, it’s putting everybody in danger,” said Sutherland.
Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil said the police boat has been out on Mara to make sure no one is interfering with the wildfire service. He said there have been a couple of occasions where boat operators needed to be told to back off and leave, and they complied.
While Station 106 crews have been helping police on the water, Shuswap Search and Rescue volunteers have been assisting on land. McNeil said local search and rescue volunteers helped with knocking on doors to alert residents when the evacuation alerts and orders were put in place.
“They have a lot of members… and the police couldn’t do that on their own,” said McNeil.
The sergeant said police have been patrolling the evacuated areas, and the province provided funding for a private security company to assist.
“People are mindful of that when they’re told to leave their homes, when they get an evacuation order, they want to know the police are keeping an eye on things,” said McNeil. “So we’ve had extra patrols in the evening.”
McNeil said Highway 97A remains closed to traffic between Two Mile and Swansea Point as travel there remains unsafe.
“There’s debris and rocks and whatnot coming down,” said McNeil. “The highway is closed for that reason.”
McNeil stressed that residents in areas on evacuation alert be prepared to leave should an order be issued.
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