August 12, 2017 9:07 pm
Updated: August 12, 2017 9:08 pm

Semi fire on Okanagan Connector sparks wildfire concerns


Claudia Wilson thought her tired eyes were playing tricks on her when she first saw tongues of fire reaching from the back tires of the semi truck in front of her, licking the trailer.

It was about 1:40 a.m. on Friday, and she was traveling alone on the Okanagan Connector.

Wilson sped up and got alongside the trailer, frantically honking her horn and flashing her lights at the driver, getting him to pull over.

Another semi driver also pulled over to help, but their fire extinguishers were no match for the quickly spreading flames.

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Wilson called 911.

“They said just let it burn,” Wilson said. “I said, what?  This could cause a forest fire. They said if that happens, call back.”

Most of the Okanagan Connector is not within any municipal fire department’s boundaries, but under the jurisdiction of the BC Wildfire Service, which can only respond to wildland fires, not vehicle fires.

The Peachland fire chief says there are situations when fire halls will go out of bounds, but the decision is made on a case-by-case basis.

“We have constant communication with Wildfires, and we do respond, depending — there’s a lot of science that goes into it.”

In this case, the fire happened in the wee hours of the morning. The weather was cooler, winds were not strong, and the humidity was high.

RCMP were on scene and monitoring the situation.

BC Wildfires consulted with the Peachland Fire Department, but did not ask them to respond to this particular highway fire.

At other times this year, other decisions have been made.

“Not long ago, we did one up Trepanier [Road], well outside our area, where the vehicle was in a large grassy field against some trees,” Craig said.  “We responded ahead of BC Wildfire to put it out and contain it.”

Wilson said the whole experience frightened her, but she’s grateful everything turned out OK.

The fire did not spread and the truck driver was uninjured.

“He said to me that I was his angel,” Wilson said.

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