FOREST FIRE C10067 ISAAC LAKE/HUCKEY CREEK

The large campsite at the bottom of Isaac Lake, is a perfectly located spot that paddlers on the Bowron Chain find ideal for rest and regrouping, it is often used for a layover day. Actually two separate camping areas have been established at this location, along with a brand new post and beam cooking shelter, this is also the site of the infamous Isaac River Chute.

Located right in the heart of the Interior Temperate Rainforest that runs north-south through the interior of British Columbia, this campsite is also home to relatively uncommon harlequin ducks that swim and feed in the fast moving waters of the Isaac River. Perhaps the most memorable highlight that this location offers however, is the opportunity on a clear warm summer night, and from your tent pitched with its open front facing down the lake in the direction from which you had probably been paddling all day, to view some of the most spectacular sunsets seen anywhere.

On the night of July 3, 2014, paddlers had an additional thrilling experience, a powerful deluge of rain and a display of thunder and sheet lightening, turned the black sky into daylight, mother nature’s power had every camper awake and filled with awe….as well as fear.

Ron Watteyne and his wife Elaine were paddling with friends, they were completing the circuit in six days. “We were having a great trip, we were still excited when we went to bed because we had seen a grizzly bear on the shore of Isaac Lake earlier in the day and then there was this storm, it was incredible” said Ron. “You could hear excited voices coming from every tent. it was about two o’clock in the morning, everyone was awake, there was a Scout group camped nearby and it was one of them that spotted the fire started after a lightening strike”. Even several days after this event, the excitement in Ron’s voice conveyed just how he had been affected by this unbelievable display. In an attempt to minimize things he added “I wasn’t frightened though, I knew that I had those tent poles and that piece of nylon just above me for protection”.

The fire turned out to be forest fire C10067, dubbed by the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch as the Isaac Lake/Huckey Creek fire. It had been my mistaken understanding (and I don’t know why), that there was a policy to not fight forest fires that occur in Provincial Parks. Upon reflection, this understanding made no sense and so I looked for clarification.

In actual fact, in such a situation, there is a very clearly defined policy in place. When a fire is reported, the Wildfire Management Branch Co-ordination Officer liaises with the appropriate land managers (in this case those officials with BC Parks responsible for the management of Bowron Lake Provincial Park). More specifically it is the Cariboo Region of the Wildfire Management Branch connecting with the BC Parks Cariboo Section, both offices are located in Williams Lake.

Their discussion, which is formally known as a threat analysis, considers the current fire behaviour, the circumstances of the fire occurrence, the suppression capability and finally the values that are at risk. In the case of fire C10067, the blaze was apparently occurring in an area that was prime grizzly bear habitat where there were known to be a number of this year’s cubs. Based on this assessment, particularly of the values at risk, the decision was made to fight the fire which was quickly suppressed and contained to an area of 20.30 hectares.

This is a feel good success story. I was told by friends that it was quite inspiring to see the impressive young fire fighters who were spotted in the area of the Park getting ready to leave once the fire had been very quickly extinguished. Hats off to all of those officials who were responsible for this success, and to the Wildfire Management Branch Cariboo Information Officer who so willingly shared information regarding these details with me. All of this was happening in the midst of intense forest fire activity throughout interior British Columbia. The very helpful Wildfire BC website http://www.bcwildfire.ca is also a source of regularly updated information regarding the current wild fire situation in British Columbia.

Jeffrey Dinsdale
July 24, 2014

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