Nelson’s fire chief Len MacCharles flew over the Harrop fire Tuesday with an expert from B.C. Wildfire Service.
While he admits he is not a wildfire specialist, MacCharles wanted to see the fire for himself because he was concerned about the safety of Nelson’s water supply, which originates in West Arm Park.
He said it was hard to see much of the fire itself because of the smoke.
“I could see a couple of fronts that were burning, and there were crews down below, it looked like they were cutting a fire break into one area,” he told the Star.
But he also flew over the surrounding landscape, and came away less concerned about Nelson’s water supply.
“Based on the information I was given and on what I saw, I felt better. I felt that it was not highly likely that we would see the fire move into that area. In fact the fire was moving in a south direction, away from the Harrop area and not toward Nelson.
“Now as we know, things change dramatically with wind, but they showed me that even with a wind-driven fire (toward Nelson) it would have to go through some obstacles including a couple of large drainages, one of which is Laska Creek.”
He said there are also a number of unforested scree slopes that would slow a fire down as well as a burned area from a fire in 2003.
MacCharles said the explanations he was given by B.C. Wildfire, were “very professional, very knowledgeable. They were taking the fire seriously and I felt we were in good hands.”
MacCharles has been Nelson’s fire chief since 2014. Before that he served for 35 years in the Calgary Fire Department, most recently as a deputy chief.
In May 2011, he was named the incident commander in the aftermath of the firestorm that swept through Slave Lake, at the time Canada’s costliest disaster.
Pegged at $700 million, the fire destroyed one third of the area, including 374 properties in and around the town. The disaster left 732 residents homeless.