BRITISH COLUMBIA

B.C. Fires: Water Bomber Crashes At Puntzi Lake

07/10/2015 02:30 EDT | Updated 07/10/2016 05:59 EDT
VANCOUVER - A pilot battling wildfires in British Columbia's Interior escaped serious injury after crashing his single-engine plane into a lake while scooping water, says a spokesman for the Transportation Safety Board.

Bill Yearwood said the incident occurred just before 3 p.m. Friday at Puntzi Lake, which is about 180 kilometres west of Williams Lake in the Cariboo region.

The 12-square-kilometres fire is just one of about 200 burning provincewide, although the Cariboo Regional District announced later in the evening that it has destroyed one resort, two permanent homes, one seasonal home and several outbuildings.

The crash came at the start of a weekend, when showers and cooler weather are expected, although winds and lightning may still keep crews busy.

"The pilot escaped the aircraft," said Yearwood. "He's apparently OK."

"He was wearing a life-jacket and helmet. The aircraft's equipped with a safety cage, and that all worked to help him get out."

Yearwood said the pilot suffered minimal injuries and would be checked out in hospital.

Environment Canada is forecasting lower temperatures and possible rain over the weekend and into next week in Williams Lake, Pemberton and Nelson — areas where fires have been devouring forests.

Smoke has dissipated throughout the province, and air quality advisories for Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and parts of Vancouver Island have ended.

"Basically, the air quality is getting better and people can go back to their normal exercise routines," said provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall.

People with underlying respiratory issues, or heart and lung problems, should still be cautious in smoky areas such as Comox and Whistler, he said.

Still, municipalities across B.C. have imposed water restrictions.

Vancouver residents could be fined $250 for watering more than once a week or outside the hours of 4 a.m. to 9 a.m.

On Vancouver Island, Parksville and the Regional District of Nanaimo introduced strict watering restrictions this week, prohibiting all lawn watering, vehicle and pressure washing, and the filling of swimming or wading pools.

The move was necessary due to low water reserves and a much lower-than-normal snow pack, said City of Parksville spokeswoman Debbie Tardiff.

"This is being done so that we don't run out of water," she said.

Starting July 20, residents could be fined $100 for breaking a water restrictions bylaw, but Tardiff said people have taken the new rules well so far.

"I think there's some pride in letting your lawn go brown," she said.

Lawn watering has been prohibited in Abbotsford, too, and Mayor Henry Braun said a team of "lawn rangers" is enforcing the bylaw.

Braun said a computer system monitors residents' water use and people who appeared not to be complying have been warned.

"If this is the new normal, with no snow pack and precipitation levels that are one-tenth of what we normally get, those reservoirs can't recharge. You can't make water out of thin air," said Braun, noting the restrictions became effective last week.

Low water levels and high temperatures have also led the province to suspend fishing on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and the south Okanagan.

Fishing will be prohibited in all streams, rivers and tributary streams in the Similkameen drainage, Kettle and West Kettle rivers between July 15 and Sept. 15. Lake fishing will not be affected.

The restrictions are meant to protect fish stocks while they are vulnerable due to low flows and high water temperatures, a spokesman for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations said in a statement.

Fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said about 2,300 people, including crews from Ontario, are fighting the wildfires and that a crew of about 50 people from Australia is expected to join the effort next week.

The cost of fighting the 959 fires that have broken out since April is about $105 million, Skrepnek said.

Also on HuffPost

B.C. Wildfires 2015