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
Wilderness Adventures - June,Week 3 & 4/2009
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of the Day.
guess I have to eat my words from the last article. I
had been extremely disappointed that the new MLA for the
Cariboo Region had not gotten back to me after I sent
her a couple of emails regarding the lookouts. But one
of our locals that campaigned for her got hold of Donna
Barnett and made it clear that none of us were happy with
the lack of communication from our political representative.
I came home to a message yesterday asking that I call
her and I got to bend her ear for a bit explaining that
we were getting a real run-around from the Cariboo Fire
To give her credit, she had actually already contacted
the Minister of Forests after receiving my email but hadn't
heard word back from the Ministry yet, and she
hadn't communicated that to me. I'm pleased that she was
willing to listen to me and make an effort to get to the
bottom of the whole thing. It has restored some of my
faith in the political system. Now I guess we'll see where
things go from here.
We had a really nice day to today. We've had some
good frosts the last couple of nights that have wiped
out a few people's plants. I was feeling a bit
smug yesterday morning after seeing mine had not been
affected, but this morning was a different matter. My
potatoes got nailed, although not badly, so they should
come back as long as the buds weren't damaged. I hope.
We had pretty clear skies for most of the day and the
temperature actually made it over 13C or 55F today and
it would have been warmer had the wind not switched from
out of the south to out of the north. It was a really
chilly breeze and felt like it was out of
the north! It sure keeps the mosquitoes down, though.
The jet stream has dipped down right over us which is
why we and the rest of central BC is cold compared to
southern BC which is in a heat wave. I expect it will
warm up for us eventually, though if that high continues
to build in off the coast.
Capping Forestry's Stories
still looking for ways to wake up the Cariboo Fire Center
as our lack of Forestry lookouts has still not been addressed.
A letter was sent by some Public Affairs Officer, one
Jennifer McLarty, to one of our inquiring locals and contained
even more drivel than the claims made by the Fire Center's
Information Officer. Actually, a lot of it was identical
to information that had been handed off to the Tribune
reporter, all of which I had already refuted. They must
have this set list of things to tell the public that they
reconstitute over and over again in the mistaken belief
that we'll swallow it. So this Public Affairs Officer
goes into a long drawn out explanation on how the lightning
detection system works and then states:
a majority of cases, the system will identify a fire start
before someone in a lookout."
me? The detection system cannot identify
whether a fire has started or not. The Fire Centers have
to send resources to an area identified as having a cluster
of lightning strikes in order to find out if a fire started.
And a fire may have started but show little or no sign
for days if a fire is burning slowly in the duff. The
Fire Centers are not going to keep sending bird dogs to
the same area for the next few weeks. But a lookout can
detect a smoke immediately upon a fire flaring up.
She also said:
the most part, technology (like the Canadian Lightning
Detection Network and cellular phones) has replaced the
need for look outs."
I just answered that one. See above. In addition to that,
the Chilcotin has no cell phone service so this person
obviously has no clue where we are, what our geography
is, what we face from fire hazards, and that we do not
have the technology this person is apparently accustomed
What gets me the most is how these people talk as though
the Canadian Lightning Detection Network is the be all,
end all. How it's replaced lookouts and they act as though
this is a brand new system and we're supposed to be fooled
Here's the facts, Jack.
According to the Meteorological Service of Canada (Website
address for this information is:
The Canadian Lightning Detection Network
Canada, provincial forest protection agencies set up individual
lightning detection networks in the early 1980s. The Canadian
Lightning Detection Network is largely unchanged from
when it was first installed Canada wide in 1998. Two additional
sensors were added in the Yukon in 2003. (If
you're interested in looking at a map on the final page
of this document, you will see that our area is in a region
where the lightning detection efficiency is only 70%,
indicating that 30% of lightning strikes are not detected.)
So that means this technology has been used throughout
Canada virtually unchanged for the past 11 years and we've
still had our forestry tower lookouts that whole time.
Well now, I find that odd, don't you?
More information included in this manuscript is: During
the summer of 2003, fires caused by lightning partially
enveloped numerous communities in British Columbia, causing
insured property damage that exceeded $150M. Nationally
in 2002, 46% of forest fires in Canada were caused by
lightning while across western and northern Canada, approximately
70% of forest fires are caused by Lightning.
would indicate far more fires are caused by lightning
here in western Canada than elsewhere, yet this is what
this Public Affairs Officer has to say:
every fire start this season has been the result of human
carelessness. The activity we’re seeing is a strong reminder
of why people need to play it safe with campfires and
other forms of authorized burning. The best way to fight
fires is prevent them in the first place."
now. Who to believe?
I go to www.bcwilfire.ca pretty much every day, particularly
when the weather is hot, dry, and conditions are right
for lightning. While there is literally no action on the
site right now because of the cool, moist weather, there
was lots a week or more ago. Every day under Current Statistics,
the Cariboo Fire District was showing 20 new fires one
day, 5 new fires another day, 6 the next day. Not one
was human caused. All were caused by lightning strikes.
It's common to see far more human caused fires in very
populated areas such as on Coastal, and the Kamloops area,
but far more rarely for other areas in BC.
Now go to the link at the bottom of the Current Statistics
page, to Average number of fires by cause for the past
ten years. Or look at the table below.
there is no break down between areas, so keep in mind
that this table includes highly populated
areas that historically account for more human caused
fires than lightning caused as compared to the Cariboo
Fire District, and still the numbers show that most years
lightning strikes account for more fires than humans.
Don't forget, she said: "Nearly
every fire start this season has been the result of human
where are these people representing Forestry
and the Fire Protection Branch getting their numbers?
Well apparently not off their own websites!
And finally, this McLarty states that:
"However, the Ministry is looking at keeping three
to four lookouts. These towers would provide coverage
for the Anahim/Nimpo Lake area and could be manned in
cases of confirmed storm activity."
Well folks, we've had confirmed storm activity in the
area and warnings that we were going to get lightning
storms, and still no towers manned, even part time.
Now for contradictions between what Pickell and
I pointed out before that Cariboo Fire Center's Grace
Pickell stated that each lookout had to spot three fires
a year in the last three years or 15 fires over three
years. Remember when I said that the statistics are generally
mapped out over a five or ten year period and that
it seemed awfully suspicious that the Cariboo Fire Center
would use a three year period? Unless you took
into consideration the Lonesome Lake fire one year before
and the hundreds of other fires in this area caused by
lightning that summer. A similar situation existed the
summer before that when we had the Tatla and Chilko fire
as well as numerous other fires also caused by lightning.
However, it would seem the Cariboo Fire Center was determined
to avoid that time period by taking it down to three years.
However, Public Affairs Officer McLarty states:
be deemed effective, the towers had to have discovered
at least three fires annually, or 15 fires over five years,
within a 30 kilometre radius."
Hmmm...... Funny how the Ministry of Forests and Range
is using the proper period of time for those statistics
and contradicts the time period used by the Cariboo Fire
Center. But what I find even more amazing is that this
same person also claims that only one tower met that criteria
and it was out here west of Williams Lake. (Yet
still, none are manned even though the criteria has been
met.) I find that extremely hard to believe because
when I was on radio dispatch during the McClinchy fire
when numerous lightning strikes were starting fires, the
towers were reporting in with smoke sightings along with
the resources in the air and on the ground at the time.
I'll have to look up my old transcripts that I kept while
dispatching for those few days. They're buried deep in
my office here somewhere but I'm positive I noted Kappan
giving sightings over that three day period. We've also
heard the towers call in sightings on the radio during
fire season and no doubt that's on transcript somewhere.
The Freedom of Information Act could force those to be
brought to light. But of course it won't be. It
would seem the Cariboo Fire Center and company are masters
of misinformation and are convinced that we're stupid
enough to fall for whatever they wish to feed us.
That's because they're 'officials' you know. And
my experience with 'officials' is that they're
arrogant as hell and dumber than a sack full of hammers.
They just don't realize it. There's a lot of similarity
Speaking of which, I still have not heard back from our
new MLA, Donna Barnett. It's a shame she got in if this
is the kind of attention or help that our communities
can expect from her. One thing I had to give to Charlie
Wyse, regardless of your political inclination, whether
NDP or Liberal, that guy fought his heart out for the
Cariboo District. If you contacted him for any reason,
you got an answer back in fifteen minutes.
It's time to shake things up again, I guess. It all comes
down to a single question that the Cariboo Fire Center
has been sidestepping the entire time. What happened
to those positions that the taxpayer paid for, that are
normally filled by Forestry Tower Lookouts????
June Moving Fast
Everyone. I apologize yet again for the long intermission
but as is usual, things have been pretty busy.
I'm afraid a good part of the summer is probably going
to be like this with lulls between articles, and when
I can warn you, I will. I know it's probably irritating
to folks that check the blog every day for a new story,
only to find nothing day after day. The same goes for
the part time residents that like to keep up on what's
happening here, but summers really are short and you have
to make hay when the sun is shining. Or at least when
there's no snow on the ground as the sun hasn't always
been shining of late.
Our weather has been mixed. We got a little over
a quarter of an inch of rain this past week between one
little rain shower and another. More importantly,
the air temperature has been cool, there hasn't been a
lot of wind, there's been more cloud than sun, and there's
been a heavy dew in the mornings. All of which suppresses
forest fire starts. That may change over the next few
days. A brisk wind started up today and although it was
mixed sun and cloud this morning with a high haze, it
cleared out this afternoon and this evening. Our best
temperature has only been about 13C today and that may
have been in the sun. It would seem a cold front has moved
in and may be around for a day or two, but there's also
a high pressure system building, and that could bring
warmer temperatures. That, with a wind drying things
out, could put us back into the same forest fire danger
we were facing a couple of weeks ago because we've still
received so little moisture.
I've had quite a few people from Nimpo Lake and Charlotte
Lake comment on the article I put in the Tribune refuting
the Fire Center's claims as well as the blogs written
on that subject. I really appreciate that you guys are
reading both and like what's been written, but don't forget,
you can be extremely effective if you email or phone them
as well. In a conversation with another local, I found
out the Fire Center is claiming no one has complained
to them about no lookouts being manned, even though we
One person from here that complained about the lack of
lookouts and inquired about how the lightning detection
service was supposed to work better than lookouts, was
sent a letter from the Public Affairs Officer of Ministry
of Forests and Range. I asked to read it and it would
seem everyone is issuing the same tired old rhetoric with
some dressed up details. It pretty much beat the
same horse to death that the Cariboo Fire Center's Information
Officer had already taken a shot at, but there
was some tidbits that conflicted with Pickell's information,
or should we call it misinformation? Stats that I had
pinpointed as being deliberately misleading in the June
15 blog below. I will address that in the next blog or
else this is going to be way too long. Instead, I'll catch
The fishing in Nimpo Lake is still terrific from everyone
I've talked to and the trout are definitely fattening
up since the fishing derby this spring. The Bella Coola
Rodeo is on this weekend so a few locals are going to
take advantage of everyone busy at the rodeo to do some
salmon fishing down there.
Last week the rivers were running really high and the
water was murky because of the remarkable snow pack melt
in the mountains. But I understand both the Atnarko
and Bella Coola Rivers have settled down in the past week
and the fishing is good. Just not during the week.
That's when the natives put their nets across the river
mouths and few fish get through. You and every other fisherman
can stand on the banks fishing until Hades freezes over
and you won't catch a thing. But the nets are supposed
to be pulled on Thursday nights so the weekend is the
only time to go at this time of year.
The Williams Lake Stampede is also on this long weekend,
although things must be a little awkward this year when
it comes to time off, since the holiday isn't actually
until Wednesday. Anahim Lake Stampede always follows the
WL Stampede by one week so it should be on next weekend.
I guess I missed the water skipping this year. Someone
said it was going to be the weekend following the canoe
races but I never heard another thing about it until it
was too late. So no pictures of drowning snowmobiles
this year folks!
Leah and I went walking in the woods a couple of days
ago and came across a fresh set of tiny deer tracks. I
didn't realize how fresh until we heard
a crack in the underbrush and the dogs disappeared. Two
came back when I called but two didn't. A few minutes
later the they did, both foaming at the mouth and grinning
ear to ear. Needless to say I only had one leash with
me but one dog went straight on it while I made the other
stay close after that. From now on, I won't let them out
of my sight. Chances are they were chasing the deer, which
could easily outrun them, but I don't want them to think
they can get away with that. They're both lucky they were
allowed to live once I got them back home.
On our way back home from looking for rocks yesterday,
Andy and I saw two deer, quite small, near a neighbour's
place. They ran off the road but not far, then
stood back in the trees and watched us. To me they definitely
looked like White tail deer, but they didn't show their
flags when they ran. Today, our next door neigbhour saw
them just outside of our property line, and he swears
they're White tail Both he and his wife saw their flags
when they bounded off. (For anyone that doesn't know,
White tail deer have bright white fur on the underside
of their tails. When they take off away from you, they
normally throw their tails straight up into the air and
their tails look like bright waving flags when they bound
away.) It's highly unusual to see White tail deer
here since this is Mule deer country, but quite
a few people have reported seeing them farther and farther
north of the Tatlayoko Valley, which is where they're
usually found. They're sure tiny!
While the mosquitoes seem to be extremely appreciative
of this cool, misty weather we've had, they're still no
where near as bad as they were last year, although the
crop that we pulled out of the Mosquito Magnet is scary.
Nothing like owning a lunch bag full of thousands of mosquitoes,
and that's our second take this year. I wonder if we could
sell them as souvenirs up at the store?
We had a marvelous dinner cooked over the fire at
the neighbour's last night and we ran into more than one
mosquito there. When there was a good breeze blowing,
it wasn't bad at all because the fire pit is on an open
hillside overlooking Nimpo Lake, but when it did die down.....
all I can say is Thank Heavens for ball caps and bug repellent.
But that's typical in this country at this time of year.
During the day the mozzies aren't bad at all, especially
if the sun is shining as it did all day yesterday. (Our
first fully sunny day in quite a few.) But once it starts
cooling down the bugs come out and they pretty much own
the evening. Bugs or not, you couldn't beat the terrific
evening. Listening to loons and other quackers, watching
an osprey circle the bay hunting for a late supper, and
just enjoying the view while sitting around the campfire
with good company, just cannot be matched by anything
else. We may miss some amenities offered in the city like
the movies, restaurants, museums and Center of the Arts,
but you may keep your Philharmonic. I'll take campfire
loons any day!
Nature finally helped us out on Friday with nearly a half
an inch of rain and some cloudy weather. It reached
freezing for a couple of nights and our temperatures
have remained pretty cool throughout the day. I don't
think I've seen it above 17C for nearly a week now and
with mixed sun and cloud, it just doesn't heat up the
way it did the week before that. Today our wind has been
switching back and forth, first blowing out of the west
and then out of the north, and a north wind is almost
always a cool one for us.
We're expected to have unsettled weather for another few
days, but even unsettled, it's still been pretty nice.
A cooler breeze definitely helps with keeping the mosquitoes
down. They got pretty voracious after the last rain we
had so having cold nights has helped a lot as well.
There were a few fishing boats out on Nimpo Lake
for the Father's Day weekend, but this lake just
doesn't see the pressure it did years ago which means
the fishing is generally good. From what I've been hearing
for the last week, it's been just fabulous lately with
folks limiting out with good sized fish fairly quickly.
We should get out there, but there's just been too much
on our plate.
We had guests from England staying in the cabin for a
couple of days and we just managed to get it done in time
for them. They went flightseeing with the floatplane
charter on Saturday and really, really enjoyed seeing
the country. They were great people and we enjoyed
their visit, but they had no sooner left the yard than
we looked at each other and said, "Okay, what project
do we start on next?" I've decided we have no life.
We live in one of the prettiest places on earth but we're
too busy to enjoy it. Either we have to cut back on the
projects, or work like hell to get them all done so that
we can start enjoying where we live.
We discovered a couple of days ago that we have a new
baby loon in the back bay. This is the first time
in a long time that the back bay pair have had a baby
that has lived this long. The bald eagles have
been making regular passes over the mother and baby looking
for an opportunity to swoop in. The mother is pretty paranoid
and warns of anyone or anything being around. I guess
you can't blame her. It's been a real struggle for that
pair to keep babies for the last few years. I was walking
back on the trail yesterday and noticed a broken egg on
the ground less than a 100 feet from the bay. There was
scat right around it and since it's the right size to
be a loon egg, I'm assuming something got it out of Momma
Loon's nest and took off with it. That could have been
anything from a gull or raven grabbing it, to a fox, coyote,
otter, marten, fisher, or any number of other small, furry
creatures that like free meals.
Bald eagles are probably the biggest danger to the
baby loon right now, and there's one immature eagle in
particular. I watched him wing over the lake in
front of our place with a fish in his claws. He had a
mature eagle chasing behind him as he crossed our peninsula
and the back bay and headed toward the Dean River. It
didn't take long for the mature eagle to take his fish
from him and he was back over the bay circling the loons
looking for a meal he could keep, which made the loons
none too happy.
There's a war again this year between the tree swallows
and the chickadees. I still can't figure out what's
happening there. It seems obvious that the tree swallows
are nesting in a little house we have hanging on the tree,
but just like last year, at least one chickadee goes in
there. I don't know if he's looking for the sunflower
seeds he cached in there all winter, taking a boo at the
swallow eggs or babies in there, whether he also has eggs
in there, or is looking for a place to nest and doesn't
really care if it's already occupied. The swallows sure
don't like it, anyway.
Wind and Sprinkles
Folks! I've been pretty busy and couldn't write, but I
figured it would take you all a while to get through that
book I wrote on the last blog.
We've been really fortunate in that our weather
has cooled down a little. Since Monday we've had
mixed cloud and sun with the odd little sprinkle of rain.
Just enough to bring on the mosquitoes but not enough
to register in the rain gauge. And we've had enough wind
that the moisture is carried away almost immediately so
it's been no help in the event of a forest fire. The cooler
temperatures and a little bit of dew on the ground do
help though. I think it got down to 3 degrees above freezing
last night which is pretty cool.
While the day time temperature has been averaging around
17C lately, today it got up to 21C or 70F and we saw lots
of sun. I think that the wind has done a lot to keep things
cooler and as a result, I haven't heard much in the way
of thunder lately, and that's a good thing.
While it's windy during the day it's gone still at night,
as usual. Quite late the night before last I went out
onto the deck to retrieve the cat and couldn't help but
notice how beautiful it was. The sky was full of
stars, you could hear the plop, plop of fish jumping and
rolling for bugs in the lake, and then the loons started
up. They cackled up and down the lake doing a
little late night sing along as they often do, and then
the last mournful cry fades across the lake, much like
the last bit of Taps blown on a horn. Since the sun doesn't
go down until 9:30 and there's still light in the sky
at 11:00 at night, you have to wait until pretty late
to enjoy true nightfall, but it's certainly worth it.
Refuting the Claims of the Cariboo Fire Center
per Erin Hitchcock's article in the Williams Lake Tribune:
I have to disagree with claims made by the Cariboo Fire
Center. (You may wish to refer to last week's article
called Forestry Putting Our Lives in Danger posted
on June 6 at June
Week One which will give you an idea
of what I'm talking about here.)
First of all, the Information Officer for the Cariboo
Fire Center, Grace Pickell, said that not all of the Forestry
Lookouts will be manned this year, but does state that
three or four will be staffed. Yes? And when would that
be? Environment Canada has already stated that BC
has seen the hottest, driest first week of June since
record keeping began over 70 years ago. Of the
nine forest fire lookouts in the Cariboo Fire District,
none have been manned. So what are they waiting for? A
The whole idea of having the lookouts manned is for a
fire to be spotted and resources allocated to it as soon
as humanely possible, not after the fire
has reached 2000 or more hectares.
We've had winds, extremely dry weather, an unheard of
amount of fuel standing and on the forest floor thanks
to the Mountain Pine Beetle, and a lot of thunderstorms,
i.e. lightning. This, of all years, is the
one where you want to have lookouts in place by the middle
Pickell states that the criteria for manning the Forestry
towers depends on the lookouts reporting at least three
fires a year or 15 fires over three years. Since when????
First of all, those statistics are historically based
on five, ten, and fifteen year terms. Why would
you choose to use only the last three years? I'll
tell you why. Because the last three out of four years
have been so wet in the Chilcotin that you couldn't start
a fire in the woods if your very survival depended on
it. I've been recording rainfalls of 19 and 26 inches,
etc. in the summer months alone in the Nimpo Lake area
for the past four years. That's unheard of! This year
is much more like a normal year for us because we're normally
arid on the Chilcotin Plateau as we're in the rain shadow
of the Coast Mountains. Of course the lookouts aren't
going to report fires. With the exception of a fire north
of Anahim Lake in 2006, there was very little fire activity.
Now if you were to take the stats back five years
as they should have been, that's whole different story.
But the Cariboo Fire Center is going to avoid doing that
because we wouldn't want to bring up the 2004 Lonesome
Lake Fire and the 15 million dollar boondoggle which ensued
due to a combination of error on both the part of the
Cariboo Fire Center and Parks. That's the fire that burned
out John Edwards, who's father, known as the 'Crusoe of
Lonesome Lake, helped bring the Trumpeter Swans back from
In April of that year we had a fire on our road that would
have gotten out of control and burned us all out if it
had not been for the quick action of the locals. We had
fire pumps, the water truck from the mill, the Anahim
Band's water truck, and lots of people on the ground fighting
that fire within minutes of it starting and it still
took off. The local fire warden showed up with
his IA crew quickly enough, but they were caught so flat
footed that all they had in the back of the truck to fight
the fire was sleeping bags.
On June 20 I looked across the lake toward the mountains
and noticed occasional small puffs of smoke coming up
down around McClinchy. That's looking straight out my
front window and we had been watching the skies for two
months because of the high fire danger. I called it in
to the Cariboo Fire Center and the lookout on Kappan had
already spotted it. By the 21st and 22nd of June,
fires were exploding all over the place because of lightning
storms. That's also when the Lonesome Lake fire
actually started but wasn't put out at the time.
By that time I was manning the radio and recording dispatches
for Forestry and there were a lot of fires being called
in. There were a lot of fire fighters on the ground, and
Bird Dogs, helicopters and tankers in the air, so they
were calling in fires continuously, but so were the lookouts.
However, unless there is a fire that's being fought and
those resources are in the air at the time,
the only ones out there spotting fires 24 hours a day
are those people in the Forestry lookout towers.
Since I'm assuming that the decision to not man the towers
was made last fall as the fire centers do their planning
for the next fire season several months ahead, then
you might want to take the stats back a full five years
from 2008 to 2003. That would put us on the Tatla
Lake fire which burned across Highway 20, taking out the
power for the Chilcotin at the same time. It wasn't even
contained yet when the Chilko Lake fire took off and became
the largest fire in British Columbia. It was also the
year of the Kelowna and Barrier fires and they overshadowed
the Chilko Lake fire, which still became an interface
It is not only unlikely but impossible that the
lookouts at Vedan, Chilanko and Kappan didn't report at
least three fires for each of those two years.
And by the way, Pickell says that only one fire tower
met their three year criteria and that was one west of
Williams Lake. That would be one of the three listed above,
but even having met the fire center's criteria,
none are manned. Oh, and she also mentions that
the other towers besides the three or four that will be
manned (and haven't been yet) will be staffed in the event
of storm activity. Excuse me??? What would
you call what we and the entire Cariboo Chilcotin have
been experiencing in the past week or two? I don't think
I've ever heard this much thunder rolling around out here
in June with the exception of in 2004. The weather forecasters
have been calling for thunderstorm and lightning activity
throughout the interior on the news nearly every evening!
I have to address Pickell's next comment, which is ludicrous
if you bother to look at it. She states that technology
has replaced a lot of the need for lookouts as they subscribe
to a lightning detection service through Environment Canada.
Are you kidding me? Who wrote her script??!!
Aside from the fact that the detection service is not
accurate, especially if you don't have sensors in place,
whether it reports lightning activity or not is irrelevant.
Everyone pretty much knows when there's lightning activity,
the point is, did it start a fire? This detection service
doesn't report in with a, "Hello?
ummm, we have a little fire here at these coordinates....."
It may pinpoint where lightning strikes hit but the information
doesn't do anyone a damned bit of good unless you go check
it out. And who's going to do that? Well let's study the
If you have 200 lightning strikes in a large region, is
a Bird Dog going to go up and check out every one of those
coordinates listed? No, it's impossible. All a spotter
plane can do is fly around the area and look for smoke.
A lookout can do that but more efficiently, more
consistently, and at a much lower cost. You're
the taxpayer here. Lets look at the numbers.
I'm assuming that even with benefits, the total cost to
Fire Protection to man a lookout is probably $200 a day.
I'm not sure who provides food, etc. to the lookout, but
I don't imagine the cost is much more than that. Know
how much a fixed wing aircraft costs to run? Well, checking
out the operating costs of our charters here, it has to
be at least $350 per hour. If you're using a helicopter,
you're paying much closer to $1000 per hour. But lets
use the cheap guy to be fair.
So the spotter plane goes up and flies around. The Chilcotin
is a big place. The Cariboo Chilcotin is a really
big place. But let's use just the Chilcotin region for
now that has coverage from the lookouts. Minimum flying
time straight across country from Williams Lake to Anahim
Lake is one hour to get here and one hour back. But
don't forget, we want some coverage here so you have to
fly a grid of sorts to spot a smoke in such a large area.
Sorry folks, but I can't see that taking less than four
or five hours. But what if a fire starts after the plane
has passed by? Will he pick it up on his way back? Possibly.
But chances are pretty good one of the lookouts will spot
the smoke as quickly as he.
So the spotter has been out for lets say... four hours.
Cost to the taxpayer, $1400 plus, versus $200 plus, and
he's far less efficient for the money, because he's only
making one pass. The person in the lookout tower is scanning
every horizon every few minutes, potentially for 24 hours
a day. If there is a lot of lightning activity,
one has to presume that the Cariboo Fire Center isn't
going to throw us to the wolves and will actually send
at least two patrols out this way in one day. Now we're
up to $2800 and a fire can still start at any place at
any time where the spotter is not. Add more than
one spotter into the equation for coverage of the entire
Cariboo Fire District during storm activity, compare their
cost to that of manning the lookout towers with less efficient
coverage, and it's really not cost effective.
Which is probably why British Columbia has had forest
fire lookout towers manned for years and years..... until
this year, anyway.
We're not even going to go near Pickell's statement about
manning the lookout towers as being a personal safety
issue. It has never been an issue. Someone threw that
in as another excuse thinking it looked good rather than
like bull hockey.
In Pickell's nearly final statement, she does say that
although the Lightning Detection Network only detects
lightning, more than half of the fires in BC are detected
by the general public or someone flying overhead will
see it. That makes lots of sense because a lot of BC is
occupied by a lot of people. But I've got news for
you, Sweetheart! Not out here.
Tweedsmuir Park, which is just a little piece of real
estate in the Chilcotin, comprises 981,000 hectares or
2.4 million acres. Our area can swallow several
smaller US States or half of Washington State,
yet last time I checked, our population still stood at
only around 3000 people or less in the West Chilcotin.
Compare that to somewhere around four million people in
the rest of the province. Our huge chunk of real estate
might sit on a plateau, but we've got a lot of rolling
hills and we're ringed with some major mountain ranges.
Add massive forests, and we can't see jack from
the ground. I have a great view of a lake and
a mountain range out my front window, but because of trees
on either side, my view probably takes in 90 degrees of
surrounding country max. If I go out the back door I have
a view of another mountain range, some hills, and the
rest of the view is blocked by hills and trees. Everyone
has pretty much the same view or less of a one out here.
We can't see anything for the trees... literally. And
it isn't for lack of trying during forest fire season,
because we all keep an eye out, but unless there's a really
big smoke out there, we can't see it.
We have charter planes on the lake and at a time when
tourism was busy and they were flying all over the country,
it's true that they could spot and report a smoke to the
Cariboo Fire Center. But there's very little business
out there right now in these economic times and the
planes go up very little now. The odd time Mike
King over at White Saddle has to take a run through here
and can spot a smoke from the helicopter, but again, we've
seen little sign of him this year.
We are not on a major flight path. In fact,
we're not even on a minor one. The jocks from Comox go
up and play on cloudy days doing maneuvers with the fighter
jets, but that's only occasional. We see very few big
jets go over and the ones that do are so high they wouldn't
have a clue as to whether a smoke they're seeing is normal
or not, but I'd bet money that they never report in unless
it's already a monster fire that everyone already knows
We often get the smoke from fires anywhere south of us
including big fires in California. Since we end up with
a smoke haze on our horizon, it's virtually impossible
for us to spot a new smoke. In contrast, the lookouts
can. Andy was up at the Kappan lookout a week
or so ago when we had a lot of smoke from the Lilloet
fire and we couldn't see a thing down here. But pictures
he took show that you can see a smoke rising up through
the haze from the lookout tower quite easily. So
contrary to what Pickell says, our sparse population,
huge area, and geographic lay of the land generally prevents
us from seeing a fire until it's well on its way.
In contrast, a lookout can see a smoke and a response
can be coordinated immediately. Or as immediately as possible
which is not so very fast now that our nearest Initial
Attack crew is at Puntzi.
We have all worked desperately to clear our properties
of beetle killed trees and other fuels. Many of us own
fire pumps and hoses and are willing to take them wherever
needed. After the Lonesome Lake debacle I believe that
most of us have our fire strategies in place in case of
a forest fire. We have our phone tree in place and people
from each community that can take the RCMP around to all
occupied properties to ensure everyone knows there is
a forest fire and that there may be evacuation alerts.
We're also working on an early warning alarm system for
our own community. We've done our part, and I would
like to know why the Cariboo Fire Center refuses to do
As stated to me by the Fire Control Officer at the Center,
it's a budget concern. Hogwash. As far back as I can remember,
there has always been a budget in place
for fire lookouts and there still is a budget
in place for the lookouts to be manned. Those positions
exist. So what happened to them and what are they being
used for if not to man the lookouts?
The people in this region feel that they have been
hung out to dry and are expected to rely on Mother Nature
to save their properties rather than on early
fire detection and fire protection for which they pay
taxes. Some of the community associations are setting
up meetings to see what can be done. But I know this much.
Should there be a forest fire out here that results in
loss of property or life, we will hold the Fire Protection
Branch and the head of the Cariboo Fire Center personally
responsible. I am still working hard to bring this to
the attention of the media, the MLA, and other government
agencies. Wish me luck.
was an article in the Williams Lake Tribune last week
by Erin Hitchcock about the Forestry Fire Lookouts not
being manned, which has a lot of incorrect, or
lets call it misleading, information in it. No fault of
Erin's. The reporter simply wrote what he or she was fed
by Grace Pickell, the Information Officer at the
Cariboo Fire Center. I'll concentrate on refuting
that article tomorrow. For right now, I want to do a story
about last night's Dance Recital.
Marie Jones teaches Chilcotin students, that range from
little tykes to adults, how to dance, and can they ever!
At the end of each dance year, she holds a dance recital
so that the students can show off their stuff. I believe
she said she held recitals in Alexis Creek, Tatla Creek,
Anahim Lake, and then it was Nimpo's turn last night.
There aren't many things in our little communities
that will bring in a packed house, but the Community Hall
was definitely full last night with standing room only
in the end. Perhaps because we don't see a lot
of the 'cultured' stuff (for want of a better term) out
here. There's the odd Bingo to raise money, and a dance
or two a year, with sometimes a Memorial held in someone's
memory, and hopefully a wedding reception this fall. It's
been a long time since the hard driving parties and dances
our Community Halls used to see where all nighters were
not uncommon, but with the possible exception of Stampede
time, that's pretty much nonexistent now.
The kids (there was only one adult and she did a great
tap dance) performed a variety of routines that included
jazz, ballet, and tap dancing. Marie goes all out with
a printed program and there were several performances
on the program, but they are short and time flies by really
fast. You kind of get engrossed in the performances, thinking,
"Wow!! Our local kids can do that!!?"
We were only there for an hour and a half but got to see
great dancing and awesome costumes. Many of us moaned
in agony when we saw some of the moves during the dances.
They were doing stuff my back doesn't even
want to think about. But the kids did great! All were
good but I marveled at the really young kids like the
little girl at the top who did The Good Ship Lollipop.
She did a wonderful job for being such a little tyke and
the three little ones in the picture under her were awesome
in everything they did. Their timing was absolutely amazing!
The only downside of the evening was that with so many
people in the building, it got pretty hot in there. We
had to keep the doors shut for lighting purposes and of
course, to keep the mosquitoes out. They would have
had a heyday in there with all those people stuffed into
one place. As a result, there was a mass exodus
into cooler air once the show was over. If we were going
to have more events in the summer, we should see if we
can rig up a net curtain over the doors to keep the air
circulating in the Hall. Mind you, it's not often that
we have a June as hot as this one!
It was another barn burner today much like it has
been since I last wrote four days ago. Incidentally,
I apologize for that but as I mentioned before, when it's
nice like this I'm working outside all day, and working
on the computer in the evenings. I've hit a major deadline
this weekend so now I can stay up on the blog a little
We haven't seen rain since we had those thunderstorms
a few days ago, and it remains hot. Surprisingly,
even as hot and dry as it is, we haven't had thunderheads
building like we did last week.... yet. We have had a
breeze lately and that may be keeping the air circulating.
I picked a bunch of morels out in the woods when I went
for a walk yesterday and we had a feed of them with supper
last night. They were yummy enough that I took a bag with
me on my walk today so that I could pick some more. Boy,
they're hard to see because they look so much like pine
cones on the forest floor.
That same forest floor is scary. The lichen
and the duff under it is dry as a bone and there are several
inches of red pine needles built up on the ground from
all of the beetle killed trees. It is so dry and crunchy,
and the needles and lichen so brittle, it's like walking
on a forest fire waiting to happen. I don't think I've
seen it this dry in several years and we are going to
be in serious trouble when, not if, a forest fire occurs.
Things are going to go up fast!
Last week's articles are at June
Week One including the article called
Forestry Putting Our Lives in Danger which is a
precursor to tomorrow's article.
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!
the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!