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Whistler Fire Chief calls for extreme caution, as fire hazard remains high



What would you do if the order were given to evacuate your home and business because a ferocious fire was raging toward you?

Thousands in the Interior have been facing that very situation for weeks and so could Whistler residents if just one careless person chucks a butt in the woods or causes a spark in their yard.

"I don’t mind saying we are getting frustrated a bit by these smokers who are continuing to throw their butts around and that is all it takes to get a fire started," said Whistler Fire Chief Bruce Hall.

"We are still at an extreme fire rating and any little thing could create a problem for us."

Firefighters attended two fires Tuesday night, which without prompt attention could have been serious. One was at Lost Lake, caused by a discarded cigarette, and the other was at a residence.

Despite the extreme fire rating Hall said the resort is not closing down trails as happened this week in the Lower Mainland.

"Logistically it is impossible for us to do that," he said.

"But we are just really encouraging people to be careful out there."

Hall has just returned from a posting in the Interior as Fire Branch Co-ordinator.

He got a chance to see the devastation first hand and it really hit home.

With the winds Whistler has been experiencing Hall is concerned that if a fire started here residents would have only minutes to get organized and get out.

"In Louis Creek (50 kilometres north of Kamloops) people only had five or 10 minutes to get out," said Hall.

"To be quite frank Louis Creek does not exist anymore and the people there have lost everything, and my heart really goes out to those people.

"They have lost their homes, their community and their employment. The ferocity of those fires is immense.

"It could be same scenario here as at Louis Creek if we had a wind. That is why we are really, really urging people to be extremely careful in the woods."

Hall was in charge of 50 pieces of fire apparatus and 246 personnel from 55 different fire services while in Kamloops.

All were used to fight the Cedar Hill fire, the Strawberry Hill fire and the McLure fire.

"Mostly the job was to put out spot fires around homes because there was fire in the community," said Hall.

Most of the fires were Rank-5 or Rank-6 fires – the worst you can get. Hall said these types of fire rage through treetops at high speed and there is nothing firefighters can do except get out of the way and fight the fire at its flank.