Wilson's Mountain Road fire threatens the community of Oliver in the South Okanagan. It was 70 per cent contained by Monday.

Buttheads, drone dummy add to wildfire threat

Reports of video showing careless smoker starting Rock Creek fire not confirmed, drone costs fire service aircraft three hours

Forests Minister Steve Thomson called for public assistance Monday to identify those responsible for careless wildfire starts, or unauthorized intrusions into evacuation areas and restricted airspace.

The B.C. Wildfire Service had to ground eight helicopters and three fixed-wing aircraft for three hours while battling fires around Oliver Sunday, due to an unauthorized drone flying in the area.

Thomson was at Oliver airport when crews were called back from efforts to contain the Testalinden Creek and Wilson’s Mountain Road fires that threaten the community.

“You could really see the frustration of the pilots and our wildfire team,” Thomson said. “Ticked off would probably be too mild a term to talk about their reaction. It’s really something that is just not acceptable.”

Despite the interruption, the B.C. Wildfire Service estimated the Testalinden Creek fire south of Oliver to be 40 per cent contained, and the Wilson’s Mountain Road fire just north of Oliver was 70 per cent contained as of Monday.

Reports of a video showing a smoker igniting the volatile fire west of Rock Creek have not been confirmed, Thomson said. He asked for anyone with video or other evidence of careless smoking or hazardous activity to contact their local police or the B.C. Wildfire Service (1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on mobile).

The Rock Creek fire remained unconfined at about 3,750 hectares Monday, and has destroyed 30 homes. Chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said the fire has not spread significantly since it was reported last week, but with hot days ahead that could change.

There were 44 new fires reported Sunday, making a total of 239 burning by Monday. There have been 292,000 hectares burned and $207 million spent so far this year, almost the same as this time last summer.