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'Definitely a cigarette butt': Woman witnesses start of B.C. wildfire

The wildfire in Lillooet was human-caused, according to the BC Wildfire Service.

Rolanda McKinley was recently travelling between Lytton and Lillooet for work when she witnessed the start of a human-caused wildfire. 

The incident happened around 4:30 p.m. on Friday on Highway 12.

“It was our last stop [delivering medical supplies] and it's an area where the road gets really narrow,” she says. “A big rig was coming. It was the only vehicle we saw on the highway for quite some time.”

To give the oncoming transport truck plenty of room to get by, McKinley pulled over to the side of the road.

“I had seen something come out his passenger window. I didn’t think anything of it at the time,” McKinley tells Glacier Media.

When they continued driving, they noticed a small fire had started next to the road and was spreading rapidly. 

“We knew it was caused by him, there was nothing else that would have caused it. There were no cars around,” the Kamloops resident says. “It was definitely a cigarette butt.”

McKinley and her colleague got out of their vehicles and called BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) to report the wildfire.

She recalls it moving from the grass to a nearby tree. 

“I could feel the heat from it,” she says. “It was scary."

Kamloops Fire Centre fire information officer Aydan Coray confirms the video of the fire is the Riley Creek wildfire that was reported on Friday. 

“It was the only fire in the Lillooet fire zone over the weekend,” she says. 

Firefighters, including an initial attack team, worked through the evening and were able to get it under control the next day. The fire is now classified as out and BCWS says the fire was 0.4 hectares in size.

“The fire is suspected to be human-caused but the cause itself remains under investigation,” says Coray.

If someone is found to have started a wildfire in B.C., they can face a $575 fine for ‘discarding a burning substance’ and potentially have to cover the cost of fighting the fire. 

“As we move through June and July, things are expected to dry out,” says Coray. “If you see someone discard a cigarette butt from your vehicle, or you see an unattended campfire or open burning violation, we do encourage everyone to call 1-800-663-5555.”

McKinley hopes by sharing her story, others will think twice before flicking a cigarette butt out their window. 

"It can become devastating so fast,” she says. “It's maddening.” 

They were not able to get the driver’s licence plate or any distinguishing details of the truck because it was long gone once they found the fire. 

The public can report any fires through the BCWS app or by texting *5555.