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Car erupts in flames, choking long-weekend traffic

Crews had small fire near Daisy Creek under control within hours

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A car that erupted in flames south of Whistler this weekend choked holiday traffic while firefighters worked to contain the blaze.

The fire started in the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 3, after a vehicle travelling north on Highway 99 near Daisy Creek veered off the road and hit a tree, bursting into flames that quickly spread to the forest nearby, according to Whistler RCMP.

"As we came around the bend, we saw a car up the embankment on fire against the trees," recalled Whistler's Dominic Wrapson, who happened on the scene on his way from Vancouver.

"The car was gutted already. It was just a shell basically. And maybe five trees around it were fully ablaze. The flames were pretty high."

The vehicle's two occupants were able to get to safety before the fire started. They were later taken to the Whistler Health Care Centre with minor injuries, police said.

Wildfire information officer Nicole Gagnon said members from the Garibaldi Volunteer Fire Department were on the scene along with BC Wildfire Service firefighters that were called in to assist. The Whistler RCMP, in a release, said that crews from Whistler also lent support.

"As of 5:20 p.m., we had just the one (BC Wildfire) crew member onsite, and they're calling the fire under control," Gagnon noted.

The accident snarled highway traffic in both directions on a busy holiday weekend as crews tried to prevent the 0.1-hectare blaze from spreading. Traffic remained at a standstill for close to two hours before a lane in each direction was reopened once the fire was mostly contained.

The blaze was one of three small fires that broke out around Whistler this week.

On Tuesday, crews dealt with a house fire on Pemberton Meadows Road that was eventually contained.

Earlier on Sunday, the BC Wildfire Service's active fire map was showing a 0.01-hectare forest fire burning near the Soo River. Turns out, by that time the fire, started by an abandoned campfire, was already extinguished and appeared on the website due to an internal reporting error, explained wildfire information officer Jeanne Larsen.

"It's out. It's done. It's a non-issue," she said Sunday, before adding: "For those that continue to have campfires when there is a campfire ban, this is what happens: You leave your fire burning and you cause a huge amount of angst to people in the local area."

Whistlerites have mostly been spared from that kind of angst during a summer marked by hot, dry conditions, with only one ticket issued by the municipality under the fire protection bylaw. Eleven tickets were also issued for smoking in parks, which is banned during Whistler's current extreme fire danger rating.

"Bylaw Officers have been patrolling and speaking with people on a constant basis. We do not keep stats as to verbal warnings, but we are focused on this on a daily basis," said a spokesperson with the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) in an email, adding that the public's compliance with Whistler's fire restrictions has been "very high" this summer.

Since April 1, BC Wildfire Service crews have responded to 1,207 fires across the province, which have burned over 1.16 million hectares of land and cost the province more than $400 million.

"It's the worst season in B.C.'s recorded history in terms of the area burned," said chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek.

Whistler's fire danger rating remains at extreme.

Stay up to date with the wildfire situation at www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/wildfire-status/wildfire-situation.

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