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BC man arrested after 'spring clean' fire blows out of control in Lil’wat Nation

A man was arrested last week after a “spring-cleaning” fire at a property on Main Street in Mount Currie blew out of control. Pemberton Fire Rescue and the Lil’wat Nation Volunteer Fire Department attended the scene on April 5. The man, who is not a member of Lil’wat Nation, has not been identified.

<who> Photo Credit: Tara Lundrigan

The Lil’wat Nation previously urged people not to light fires when disposing of debris in their yards due to the dangerous risk of the blazes spiralling out of control. The Lil’wat Nation FireSmart program also organized a pick-up service for construction materials, branches and bushes. The group will also erect notices around the community soon.

The Lil’wat Nation’s FireSmart coordinator, Dillon Bikadi, said the property that caught on fire did not belong to the individual who lit the debris.

“There was an individual who was trying to do some spring cleaning,” he said. “They decided to light that pile of spring cleaning on fire. It was a windy day and the fire decided to spread on its own. There are very dry conditions out there so it didn’t take long to spread. It quickly spread across a half-hectare of burnt grass. Most of what was burnt was tall, dry grass.”

Bikadi confirmed the fire-starter was arrested by Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police (the detachment did not respond to a request for info before press time).

Thankfully, the firefighters were able to put out the blaze in less than half an hour. This is the second time in three months firefighters have had to step in to control the man’s fires, Bikadi said. “We responded to a fire in February at basically the same location,” said Bikadi. “He accepted responsibility for it.”

That fire, on the afternoon of Feb. 17, affected the property of Bendigo Noble, who is currently recovering from cancer treatment. His girlfriend, Tara Lundrigan, told Pique people need to learn the scary consequences these fires can have.

Lundrigan said she was terrified by how quickly the fire overtook the yard.

“Someone who doesn’t live in our neighbours’ [property] was helping with yard work, doing a very typical spring burn, and it was a close call,” she said. “The guy who set our property on fire didn’t even have a hose or water ready for control.”

The couple believe the fire was a close call, and that they could have lost a lot more.

“We lost some cords, a hose, and some plexiglass, but thankfully that was it,” Lundrigan said. “It was just terrifying to see how fire moves and how some people think they have things in control, when they really do not.”

Bikadi and his team are ready to help people ensure their homes are FireSmart ahead of the warm summer months.

“The idea of FireSmart is to educate and assist in proven ways that can reduce the risk of fire within the community,” he said. “The main idea is resistance against wildfire, but it is also proven to work against domestic fires. Lil’wat Nation has asked that nobody burns any debris from spring cleaning right now as we don’t have a full band.”

Tips and advice on protecting your property against the risk of fire can be found on the FireSmart Facebook page and website.

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