NEWS

Tree-faller's death blamed on lack of government action by Sechelt chief

07/07/2015 12:42 EDT | Updated 07/07/2016 05:59 EDT
A blanket of smoke and fear hangs over many B.C. communities with more than 182 fires continuing to rage, and air quality remaining poor. 

Lightning is being blamed for at least half of the 23 new fires touched off Monday with the biggest blazes just outside Pemberton, in the Elaho Valley and Boulder Creek. 

Many are urging the province to send in more water bombers, despite the high cost.

"Sure it's expensive, but this fire cost me a brother," said Lonnie Phare, whose brother, John, 60, was struck and killed Sunday by a falling tree while battling a blaze near the Old Sechelt Mine.

Sechelt First Nation Chief Calvin Craigan grew up with Phare and said his death has touched off a "volatile" mood in his fire-beleaguered community

"It's sad to have that have to happen. I believe that more effort by the government would have prevented that, said Craigan, who saw a new evacuation notice last night after meeting with the B.C. forest minister. "The fellow that was killed was a good friend of mine ... he was an elder volunteering ... We need to see more efforts in terms of loss of life like that."

Craigan said fire crews from Cowichan, Terrace and Campbell River are being called in, to try to prevent the 100-hectare blaze from getting larger. He wants the provincial government to send in water bombers.

"One-hundred acres blowing up into 500 acres ... we don't want to see," said the chief, who reported the fire is now 40 per cent under control.

The Sunshine Coast Regional District has issued an evacuation alert for at least 18 seasonal residents.

In Pemberton, clouds of ash cast a different pall, as officials wrestle with whether to cancel a popular July 17 music festival that sees thousands pour into the valley. Pemberton Music Festival organizers are "all over" fire prevention using sprayers to keep things damp and policing campsites, assured Mayor Mike Richmond.

"If the fires become more of a threat we certainly don't want to bring 30,000 extra people into the valley that might have to be evacuated," the mayor told CBC Tuesday morning.  

"It's still pretty smoky. It's been kind of getting thicker since Sunday. You can smell it and you can taste it. It's a bit disconcerting."

Kevin Skrepnek​, chief fire information officer with the ​B.C. ​Wildfire M​anagement Branch, said there  is one silver lining to all the clouds over B.C​.​

​ "Oddly enough [it] can help the situation a bit in that that smoke is reflecting a lot of the heat from the sun, so it's not actually reaching the ground and heating the ground to the same degree that it has been doing over the past few weeks."​

MORE:cbcNews