A 60-year-old tree-faller from Gibsons was killed on the job Sunday while assisting with efforts to fight the Old Sechelt Mine Fire, Sunshine Coast RCMP has confirmed.
RCMP and BC Ambulance Service responded to the emergency call at 12:08 p.m. Worksafe BC and the BC Coroner’s Service are investigating.
Detachment spokesman Const. Harrison Mohr called the incident a tragic example of how truly dangerous it is to fight wildfires. “We are fortunate to have such brave men and women working to protect our homes and communities,” he said.
A Coastal Fire Centre official said Saturday that four tree-fallers had been deployed to the fire and that steep slopes and danger trees had made firefighting difficult.
In its fourth day, the fire remained 80 hectares (198 acres) in size and 40 per cent contained, with growth mostly to the north, Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) emergency preparedness coordinator Bill Elsner said in a Sunday morning update.
The level of containment was “due to the tremendous efforts of crews,” Elsner said, adding that containment lines were to be strengthened and guards constructed on Sunday.
Resources deployed on the fire include 55 firefighters, two officers, three water tenders, three helicopters and four excavators, Elsner said.
The fire is located about two kilometres northwest of Sechelt and 1.8 kilometres above the west shore of Sechelt Inlet.
Environment Canada issued a smoke advisory for the Sunshine Coast on Sunday, as smoke and falling ash covered much of the South Coast region from wildfires on the mainland and Vancouver Island.
Winds were expected to shift Sunday night to an onshore flow, “so that cleaner marine air should move in from the west on Monday,” the advisory said.
BC Emergency Health Services had a significant spike in smoke-related respiratory distress calls Friday and Sechelt Hospital is at capacity, Elsner said in a Saturday update.
Late Saturday, the RCMP and BC Wildfire Service warned the public to stay out of the fire area to allow crews to work safely. Crews had reported several curious onlookers within the restricted fire area, some on foot, others riding bicycles, motorbikes and ATVs, Chubey said.
No structures were threatened as of Sunday and no evacuations have taken place. However, evacuation alerts were delivered Friday to Carlson Point residents and most have chosen to leave the area. A total of 18 homes are under the evacuation alert, with RCMP and Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Unit 12 on standby to assist if needed.
The fire is suspected to be human caused and remains under investigation.
The SCRD has set up a public information line at 604-885-6800 to provide callers with information on the Carlson Point evacuation alert and the fire situation in general.
See www.scrd.ca for updates and more information.
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