Behind the fire line: B.C. firefighters stalked by cougars

A Keremeos volunteer firefighter talks about what it was like to patrol the Snowy Mountain fire

When Josh Wollman joined the Keremeos Volunteer Fire Department he never imagined he would be in a bush truck lights and sirens trying to get to BC Wildfire crew members being stalked by a cougar – but that’s what happened during one of his nights on patrol.

(Submitted)

Wollman recounted a night early last week when they got a radio call for help and a KVFD member got a new nickname “cougar bait.”

“Two of the forestry workers were walking up a cutline to check on a pump in the creek beside one of the ridges that were burning down by Chopaka. They radioed us frantically asking us to back up the forestry truck to them as fast as possible,” he said.

Wollman said the road wasn’t easy to back up on, so he decided to turn around.

“The guys got back on the radio and said, ‘stay there, turn all your lights and sirens on. We’re running to you.”

Related: Snakes rattling up trouble for wildfire crews near Keremeos

Related: ‘Hot and dirty work:’ Commander describes fighting massive Ontario wildfire

A cougar stalked the wildfire crew for awhile, pushing them down the cutline and letting out very large growls.

Once the crew was safe they still had to go out and check the pump and that’s when local member Lorne Pleasant got his new nickname.

‘They told us one of us had to come with them so we could watch the bush and look around while they checked out the pump,” he said.

Wollman offered to go, but Pleasant said, “you’re driving. You have to stay here.”

Pleasant went out, and the BC wildfire crew got the pump running without any further incident.

“As soon as he got back in the truck he said, ‘ya sure, send the old crippled guy that can’t run,’” Wollman said with a laugh. “People that were there, we call him cougar bait, it’s pretty funny.”

Wollman couldn’t praise the wildfire crews enough for their hard work fighting the raging Snowy Mountain fire burning more than 13,000 hectares in high elevation just south of Keremeos.

“Basically they are going out there with glorified garden tools. They strap them on their back with their radios. They go up at 7 p.m. and we don’t see them come down till 7 a.m.,” he said.

He’s heard from crews that they’ve run into wolf packs, cougars, rattlesnakes, and even a skunk’s den.

“That didn’t go too well for them,” he said.

(Submitted)

He was there when a large planned ignition happened near Chopaka last week.

“It was weird for me. I jokingly said for us being structure firefighters and local firefighters what you are doing is that you just lit the whole mountain on fire. It was crazy. For me, I don’t set the house, next to the house on fire, to stop it from being on fire. We all had a good laugh at that,” he said.

“But the precision they do that with is amazing. They said watch, this tree will be impacted by the fire and this one next to it won’t, and they did it.”

About 16 KVFD members have been doing patrols 24 hours a day, working with the BC Wildfire teams.

The patrols stopped Monday.

Related: Increasing temperatures challenge crews on Snowy Mountain fire

“It’s been great team building for our department,” Bosscha said. “They’ve learned a lot and have had a really great experience.”

Bosscha said some local firefighters have worked 24 hour shifts patrolling, because there wasn’t anyone to fill in. He added employers have been great.

“It’s great to see everyone working together to do this,” he said.

At the time the Review went to press the Snowy Mountain fire was 13,359 hectares in size and was listed as out of control. Work was still underway in Chopaka to stop the fire from destroying homes and out buildings while other work was being done to contain the fire a top Snowy Mountain in hopes of stopping it from coming down K-Mountain.

Related: UPDATE: Three new fires sparked in the South Okanagan- Similkameen

Check www.keremeosreview.com regularly for updates on this fire and more.

To report a typo, email:
editor@keremeosreview.com
.


@TaraBowieBC
editor@keremeosreview.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Drums were heard along Dogwood St. in Campbell River today, as a group marched around the city in recognition of National Indigenous Peoples Day. Photo by Sean Feagan / Campbell River Mirror
PHOTO: Marching for National Indigenous Peoples Day

Event celebrates heritage, cultures and achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

Police are looking for information regarding several vehicles being vandalized with blue-grey spray paint over the early morning of June 20. Photo courtesy Garrett Lee
Police looking for suspect in vehicle spray paintings

In totral, 17 vehicles spray painted over early hours of June 20

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Several vehicles were vandalized around Rockport with blue spray paint on the night of June 19 or morning of June 20. Photo courtesy Garrett Lee
Vandal spray paints multiple vehicles around Rockland

Residents discover lines of blue spray paint on vehicles morning of June 20.

Kaleb Robertson at bat during the 18UAAA North Island Cubs season opener against the Cowichan Valley Mustangs on June 19, 2021. Photo by Sean Feagan / Black Press Media.
PHOTOS: Minor baseball players and fans welcome return to play

18UAAA Cubs start regular season action after long wait with convincing win against Mustangs

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Bernadette Jordan addresses the media following a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on January 14, 2019. Jordan says the government will provide $2 million to allow First Nations to continue to strengthen the marine safety system across Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
First Nations receive federal funds to purchase marine rescue boats

Quatsino, Heiltsuk, and Kitasoo First Nation’s among eight across Canada to receive funding

Most Read