Sunday 6 August 2023

1986: A Fire Fighting Tragedy

    This has been the worst year ever for forest fires in BC.  There has been more, and larger forest fires than ever before.  Tragically, two fire fighters have lost their lives fighting those fires.  Hearing of their deaths reminded me of a little known incident that happened locally on August 15th 1986.  Here is what I got from my diary:

In the afternoon we drove out to the Castle Creek mill to check out some cedar siding that we  might use on our house.  While at the mill we spotted a huge plume of smoke billowing up from our side of the valley in what we figured must be the Community Pasture which was located further down our road by the McKale River.  After we had returned home and I was out picking peas, I noticed a couple Forestry trucks with fire fighting equipment go by, then a bit later I heard the large Water Bomber fly over.

By this point I was full of curiosity, so we drove up the road to investigate, but once we got close to the Community Pasture we found that the road had been blocked.  Our curiosity intensified, so we backtracked and drove all the way out to the highway to take a look, and saw that smoke was coming from the Community Pasture, but there was also a small area on the slope above the pasture that was burning.  

We found out later that the “Bird Dog” plane (a  small spotter plane that flies above the water bomber, directing the bomber where and when to drop its load for the best effect) had crashed into the mountainside killing the pilot.  This seemed like a significant news event, but surprisingly, it didn’t seem to get coverage.  I don’t recall ever hearing anything about it on the radio news, just from the local McBride grapevine.

    I got the photo above from Google Earth.  The light green area is the Community Pasture.  I tried to find the burnt spot in the forest across the road from it, that might indicate where the Bird Dog plane went down, killing the pilot.  It happened 37 years ago, so my guesses are only that.

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