Clinton-area ranchers seeking compensation for controlled burn gone wrong

BC Wildfire Service says it has reached out to people affected by the Elephant Hill fire

Upset ranchers and other rural residents near Clinton are banding together to call for an apology and compensation from the B.C. government, after controlled burns went wrong and led to untold losses of livestock and property.

The affected residents are unhappy with orders given to light up the controlled burn on Aug. 1 on the Hart Ridge Mountain near 20 Mile House during what they say were adverse wind conditions, which caused the fire to immediately jump Highway 97 and threaten nearby ranches and homes.

That fire rapidly expanded and moved south toward Highway 99 while travelling parallel to Highway 97, causing numerous evacuations and highway closures in a wide area.

They also say that the lives of rancher Greg Nyman and his entire herd of more than 100 cattle were unnecessarily put at risk when he was nearly caught by controlled burns on Hart Ridge while trying to move the cows to safety earlier that day.

Nyman had been allowed by fire officials to get up in the highlands before the burn to look for his cows. He was given three hours to search beginning at 9 a.m., but it took longer than planned and he did not get out until almost 1:30 p.m. The fire ended up being set around him and the cows he was able to find, about 60 animals: half his herd.

He was able to make it off the mountain safely, but he was forced to abandon his cows and does not know their fate.

“It just went unbelievably wrong,” he said. “The wind was blowing hard out of the northeast, and they were trying to burn to the northeast. I don’t know what kind of magic they thought was going to happen.

“They dropped these firebombs from a helicopter which, in high winds, is inherently wrong if you ask me. The fuel down there, the dryness level and the winds—it was a bad call.”

The BC Wildfire Service has said it is aware of the ranchers’ concerns, and that they may qualify for compensation.

In an email, a spokesperson for the service said, under the Wildfire Act, “People can be compensated for damage on private land for avoidable damaged caused by fire control by government. With regard to the Elephant Hill fire, staff have already reached out to the residents.”

Controlled burns are an essential and effective tool for fighting wildfires, and the BC Wildfire Service says safety, of personnel, the public, equipment, and all adjacent values, is the primary concern.

During a media call on Aug. 2, chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said conditions appeared ideal until the winds shifted dramatically, blowing embers west across Highway 97.

“We’ve been doing this on many fires across the province up until this point,” Skrepnek said. “The fact of the matter is that when fires get to this size, the use of controlled ignitions is one of the best tactics that we have in terms of trying to contain them. Unfortunately, in this instance, the winds just weren’t in our favour.”

But Nyman said the decision-making in this case was very poor; the shift in wind direction was obvious before the fire was set, he insisted.

“I’m numb, I just can’t get my head around it,” he said. “Most of my cows are either burnt up or are going to die from their injuries.”

Just Posted

UPDATE: Campers packing after one night at Cattle Point in Oak Bay

Oak Bay Police Department serves bill for damages in fall 2017 encampment

PHOTOS: Cannabis consumption in the provincial capital

Victoria pot shops respond to the national legalization of marijuana

Homeless campers of Namegans Nation head to Oak Bay

Roughly 30 members of roving tent city settle at Cattle Point in Uplands Wednesday

UPDATED: Early morning crash on Sooke Road causes traffic delays

The road has now been cleared of two incidents from Thursday morning

WATCH: Twelve Angry Jurors puts a new spin on an old tale

Canadian College of Performing Arts opens season with reworked version of Reginald Rose teleplay

Find your future at Black Press career fair in Victoria

More than 70 booths expected at Bay Street Armoury on Oct. 25

Money Monitor: Should you switch to a fixed-rate mortgage?

BMO’s Omar Abouzaher outlines the pros and cons of both types of mortgages

POLL: Do you support amalgamation for communities in the Capital Region?

Residents in Victoria and Saanich will be voting on Oct. 20 on… Continue reading

Earth still moving in Old Fort, B.C., but not above homes: geologists

Transportation Ministry crews are ready to start work on the Old Fort road

Around the BCHL: Youth trumps experience for Chilliwack and Salmon Arm

Around the BCHL is a look at goings-on in the BCHL and the junior A world.

Aquaman star spotted around Campbell River as production ramps up on See

Jason Momoa, best known for his role in Game of Thrones, is in town to film television series

Chain reaction crash on Vancouver Island leads to boat hitting house

Alcohol and speed may have been a factor in Courtenay crash

Proportional representation grows government, B.C. study finds

Spending, deficits higher in countries where voting system used

Most Read