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Wilderness Adventures - July, Week One/2010

This is about a remote area in west central British Columbia, Canada called the West Chilcotin. Surrounded by numerous glacial mountain ranges, alpine lakes teeming with wild Rainbow Trout, and full of wildlife. Living here goes from no running water or electricity to spacious log homes with all the conveniences and without the smog!
If you would like to see pictures of wildlife, mountains, lakes, exciting snowmobiling, events and more, and read some great contributed stories and ongoing blogs, just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

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12/07/2010 4:26 PM

Fire Lookout Situation

We seem to be back to square one regarding our fire lookouts again this year, something that's concerning everyone.
Right now we have a beautiful chopper based on Nimpo with a water tank on it. I'm assuming it is also carrying an Initial Attack crew for forest fires. At least I hope so because as far as I know, we don't have anyone in the lookout again this year. There certainly wasn't anyone there a couple of weeks ago when the neighbours went up to fix the radio station. I received an email from a woman that was the lookout at Chilanko and Alex Graham for 20 years and I would say she was very poorly treated. She was kind enough to give me permission to reprint her email here verifying everything I was saying last year while fighting for our lookouts. You have got to read this to believe what a bunch of obnoxious doorknobs are running our fire center now.

"Hello, just a few comments on the Cariboo Fire Centres lack of Lookouts, I worked on a Chilcotin lookout for 20 years. I now work for Alberta SRD on a lookout tower. Last spring I received a phone call and was told due to budget changes we would not be recalled, but an amazing thing happened. The day after my 9 month recall rights with the union ran out I got a call here in Alberta to go back to work on Alex Graham. But would now be ON A AS AND WHEN HIRE with no union rights whatsoever.... no basically the country last year was allowed to burn until my recall rights ran out. You see, they couldn't hire a lookout til mine ran out, as I had seniority!!!! As far as I am concerned, the changes that they seem to do to SAVE the taxpayers money, sure cost a lot last year. Never mind the homes and lives that were destroyed because of the fires. I know if we were on the job, it would have been alot less, no way to know how much but some for sure.
I have reported hundreds of fires over the years that were put out quickly, and they all had potential to be huge. And you know in the big scheme of things, lookout towers do not cost the gov't that much. We were paid 8 hrs a day, for working a min of 12 hrs. In my opinion, the gov't sure got its money's worth out of us!!! I am sorry that the Chilcotin, with its volatile fuels, and dry grasslands has to burn up before anything is done. And I do know what you mean when you say you have tried to bring this to powers that be's attn,,, I tried also...all for nothing...and not just because I was losing my job. I love the country and the people. I lived and worked in the Cariboo/Chilcotin my whole life, and must say I miss the mountains. But here in Alberta they still believe in LOOKOUTS, we still have 128 active...................................Good luck...wishing you all a quiet fire season.... "

As for saving money... that's not why the Cariboo Fire Center pulled the stunt they did. It's because the new majestic leader that took over screwed up on the full time positions normally used for the lookouts and so could only use part time as and when hires for the lookouts. But, in order to do that, he had to get rid of the regular lookouts first, and he couldn't do that until after their nine month recall was up. As I understood it from my sources, when he was promoted to running the CFC, he gave those full time positions away in winter of 2009 to other fire centers to make himself look good. Which would also explain why the fire center he came from where he was just a lackey was so relieved to see him go. From all accounts, this guy may not be a good addition to the human gene pool.
I've had a few people ask about the lookout wondering if I'll go to bat again to get our lookout here. I'm debating that. The Cariboo Fire Center knows that we need a lookout as does the rest of the Chilcotin. They know the whole country is like a powder keg ready to go up and regardless of what they may claim to the contrary, they know that lookouts make a big difference. So the way I look at it at this point in time is if we have fires and people lose their homes, I think a class action lawsuit against the fire center and that ding dong running it would be pretty legitimate, and I know just the lawyer that would love to take it on. Rather than beat our heads against the wall, I think hitting them in their pocket book will hurt a lot more. And if lives are lost?? Then I think there's a case there for criminal negligence. So unless I get steamed, I'm just gonna relax on that point this summer and wait for something to bury them with.
In the meanwhile, the Ministry of Forests was on TV a couple of weeks ago promoting the MF's idea of reducing the size of campfires from three feet in size to one and a half feet in size. Has it occurred to anyone that it's not the size of a the campfire that causes forest fires? It's because they weren't put out properly or left unattended. Size certainly isn't going to change that. I'm sure they'll be putting campfire bans on soon as well. But they're pretty foolish the way they do that now.
Rather than put bans on in specific areas that are dry, now they do these blanket bans. We still had a campfire ban on last fall after we had several snow falls!
There was a time when people took it pretty seriously when a ban went on but now, why would they? It's kind of like crying wolf too many times. When we were north of Prince George last year, it was hotter than Hades here and there was a province wide ban. We went into this campground and everyone had campfires. We're king of going, "What???" We knew about the ban so we didn't have a fire, (the only ones) but we did ask the hosts what was going on and after we took the dogs for a walk we could see what they meant. Apparently it had been a really wet summer and the bushes were just dripping with water. Why should anyone follow a ban under those circumstances?? You couldn't have started a forest fire if you had tried. No way! So I really think the Ministry of Forests is going to lose credibility on this score and eventually it will be challenged in court, particularly in view of the size of the fines. If I'm sitting at a campfire with snow on the ground, or wet woods during a fire ban, charge me and I will take it to court. I think that the problem here is a province that's broke, spent too much money on the Olympics, and didn't have money in a contingency fund for a bad forest fire year like last year. So they try to take the stupid way out. "Let's cut down the size of campfires and put on bans at the first hint of a fire season and we won't have fires". That would work except that on the news last night it was stated that 20 fires were human caused in the province this year. That's out of about 400 fires so far. That just is not a large percentage of human caused fires and the cost is way too high when you consider how detrimental that can be to our tourism. Lots of folks expect to be able to have a camp fire when they go on vacation. It's really important to many people and they resent it a lot when they can't have one. In view of the significance of our tourism industry to the province, I think that Ministry of Forests needs to sit down and rethink how it goes about doing business.

11/07/2010 7:59 PM

More Bears

We've been having to go down to Bella Coola on a weekly basis and we've seen bears every time. The week before last we saw eight bears again, including the grizzly sow and her cubs, but last week I think we only saw four, and they were all black bears. Well, the one brown bear with his traveling companion but even with his color, he's still a black bear. On the other hand, we're pretty sure his companion is a dog crossed with a bear. It's the weirdest looking bear you've ever seen. It looks like one of those Asian bears with long ears, pointy nose, and long, long hair. He's pretty skinny so he's probably a really old bear. Maybe they all look like that when they get old, but I've certainly never seen one quite like this before. Check out his pic up on the right. By contrast, shortly after we saw the shaggy bear we saw a big black ambling down the Hill and he was fat!
The week before last we were running a little late and although we saw a vehicle parked on the side of the road with its driver taking pictures, we didn't have the time to slow down and see what they were looking at. We figured it was probably the grizzly sow and her cubs since it was in her territory, and sure enough, it was. When we came back up the hill she and her cubs were just across the road from that spot at the East Branch pullout where the Heckman Fire was. That's the jumping off point for snowmobilers in the winter time. As usual, she was pretty complacent about our presence, although we didn't drive all that close because we didn't want to get between her and her cubs after she crossed the pullout. We watched as the cubs eventually followed her, one of them doing an investigative stretch up the side of the raised outhouse there. Wouldn't that be a surprise for any poor soul that might have unknowingly gone inside only to come back out to three grizzlies!
Last week when we went down to Bella Coola, almost right from Anahim Lake I was sure I could see a pink/yellow tinge to the clouds to the northwest. I kept an eye on it as we drove and sure enough, the closer we got to the Tweedsmuir Park boundary the easier it was to see what looked like a column of smoke. I kept an eye on the same location after we came back up the Hill and before long I saw the tell tale streak of smoke scattered for a long distance behind the Rainbow Mountains. I'm guessing it was started the night before by a lightning strike. We didn't hear a word about it on the news until tonight, though, when they said it was about a 500 hectare fire and that it would be allowed to burn. Makes sense to me. It's in a very isolated location in the park with no assets or structures to burn and it wouldn't hurt to burn up some of that beetle kill. I'll have more on fires in tomorrow's blog.
We're still really, really dry. Other than a little sprinkle that didn't even register in the rain gauge a week ago, we've received no rain since the last blog and the weather has been hot and dry. I think what's saving us from lightning strikes right now though is that there is no moisture for the weather systems coming in from the west to pick up and form thunderheads. The systems usually reach Williams Lake or the Blackwater before they've picked up enough moisture to form thunderstorms. Mind you, that's just conjecture and I could be totally wrong. I have been before. :-)
As often happens because of the way the weather systems move, there's another forest fire around Kluskus according to the newscaster tonight. It said there was no danger to homes so far and I can't imagine there is. I think that's where a number of people had to be evacuated last year because of a forest fire. I shouldn't think there would be much left to burn around the community.
Just a reminder to you pilots out there. The BC Floatplane Association AGM is this coming weekend at Terry's Hangar on the north end of Nimpo Lake as usual. For more information, check out the BCFA website.
The Anahim Lake Stampede was on this weekend and I'm assuming it was a success. Hopefully no disaster befell it as it did at Valemont this weekend when that 18 year old bull rider was killed when the bull stepped on him. That's just a sorry thing to have happen but it is a dangerous sport!
Last month's posting can be found at June Week One

The purpose of this web site is to draw attention to a remote area of west central British Columbia. It is a beautiful area that relies heavily on tourism. The search engines don't know much about the West Chilcotin, Anahim Lake, Nimpo Lake or any of the other small communities in the region and I hope to change that! Even as large as this site will eventually be, there just isn't enough room or time in the day to fully describe this incredible country but I am going to try scraping away at the tip of the iceberg, so join me!

Follow the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!
Reddish brown bear.
Very shaggy black bear.
Black bear coming toward camera.
Grizzly sow.
Grizzly cub on a building side.
Evening forest fire smoke.
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