September 13, 2017 9:09 pm

‘They burnt this for no reason’: Summerland-area property owner decries firefight damage

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Osborne Road resident Barry Pickett not only dealt with the hardship of being forced from his home due to a wildfire, but also the damage caused by forestry crews to his 56-acre property northwest of Summerland.

“I’m not sleeping at night just from sheer frustration with what happened on my property,” he said.

Fire crews built machine guards and conducted controlled burns on Pickett’s property in an attempt to contain the fire and protect structures threatened by the Finlay Creek wildfire.

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“The placement of the machine guard was based on fire behaviour, forecast weather, limitations of heavy equipment, and time constraints,” said a statement from the Wildfire Service.

The piping for Pickett’s water system, which extracts water from the natural springs on Mount Acland, is damaged, so Pickett has no access to potable water.

Pickett must now rely on bottled water and he has seven days left of emergency accommodation where he can shower.

The BC Wildfire Service said the fire came within 800 metres of Pickett’s property, but Pickett said he feels the damage and inconvenience was unnecessary.

“They burnt this for no reason what so ever.”

Pickett asserts his private property rights were violated.

“It’s just so frustrating to know that as a Canadian who owns his property lock, stock, and barrel — no mortgage, no nothing — and the government can walk on here any time they want.”

The provincial government can exercise emergency powers, such as accessing private property, when public safety is threatened.

The BC Wildfire Service said there is compensation available for damage to private land.

“We understand the frustrations, especially when personal or economic impacts are felt by residents. Our top priority in fighting fires is always public safety first, followed by protection of infrastructure,” said a statement from Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek.

Another neighbor told Global News the work done was not irresponsible or unavoidable and that firefighters “faced a dragon they had to slay.”

The BC Wildfire Service said rehabilitation and water specialists are on site today to start the remediation process.

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