It was an alarming deja vu. On May 15, a serious cloud of smoke rose up from the Kleena Kleene area.
It was very reminiscent of the 2017 fire. It was in exactly the same place, too – on the ridge behind the hay fields at downtown Kleena Kleene.
The owners of the ranch (who also own the Kinnikinnik restaurant) have been clearing land and burning the debris – long after most people have had to quit burning. They obviously allowed their fire to get away. The ridge is brown – a result of the 2017 fire. But it was amazing what was still left to burn.
There were pockets of spruce
and a mishmash of fire-killed aspens.
It’s been dry and very windy; however, the wind was not so strong on this day. It was blowing crossways to where we were standing so we had a comfortable, safe place to watch the action.
There have been 250 fires already in BC this year, but all have been human-started and easily controlled. In 2017, 200 fires were started in one day by lightning strikes, completely overwhelming the fire service. Our area did not get help for nearly 2 weeks. (See the book: Captured By Fire.) Forestry were on this fire right away – except “right away” meant a couple of hours to get there.
An air attack was mounted first. First a bird dog plane flew round and round, sussing out the situation.
Then the first of four tankers arrived.
As it came through the smoke it was accompanied by two sandhill cranes!
The first load of retardant was dropped.
The wind helped by dropping even more and changing direction so the fire was burning back on itself. The bird dog plane lay down a line of smoke to determine how the wind was blowing. The brown fuzzy blobs are totally annoying flies. Not biters but constantly batting in your face.
Tanker #2 laid it’s retardant. The bird dog plane is above it. The retardant used to be somewhat poisonous, but now it its basically fertilizer.
A forestry person who watched with us explained that they hoped to box the fire in with retardant. Here is tanker 3. Many tankers are old passenger planes, but this was much newer.
It dropped its load.
And finally the fourth tanker.
It is amazing how the retardant hangs in the air, buoyed no doubt by the heat. The fire was definitely dying out.
That was the end of the air show. By this time a ground crew had arrived. They would stay with the fire until it was properly out. The following day was very windy, but there was no sign of smoke, and the day after I happened to drive by there and it was as if the fire had never been.
When I had my own little fire in 2019, my neighbours put it out for me. Forestry arrived just as the last embers were doused. Forestry said that they could take over the fire to make sure it was properly out, but if they did, I would have to pay for it. They did advise me that they did not think it necessary for them to stay. It would be interesting to know what this little carelessness will cost the rancher.