Snakes rattling up trouble for wildfire crews near Keremeos

Terrain near the Snowy Mountain fire, 14 kilometres southeast of Keremeos, is home to rattlesnakes

A beware of Rattlesnakes sign in the Chopaka area southeast of Keremeos where wildfire crews are working.(Photo courtesy of BC Wildfire)

As if scorching temperatures, steep slopes and strong winds weren’t enough to contend with, BC Wildfire Crews fighting the snowy Mountain fire near Keremeos also have to keep a close eye out for rattlesnakes.

Claire Allen, information officer for BC Wildfire, said since crews arrived to fight the fire, firefighters have run into numerous large rattlesnakes.

“I’m from Kamloops, so it’s not uncommon for me to see snakes, but these snakes are quite large, they’re definitely healthier here,” she said.

This time of year, the preferred habitat of Western Rattlesnakes include tall grassy areas where they can easily feast on voles, mice, pocket gophers, ground nesting birds, and other vermin. That also enjoy rocky terrain where they can bask in the warmth of the Similkameen sun, but also find a quick hiding spot to keep them safe from predators.

Related: Update: Smokier skies expected near Snowy Mountain fire

An aerial photo of the terrain near the Snowy Mountain fire near Keremeos during a burnoff Aug. 7, 2018.(Photo courtesy BC Wildfire)

The valley floor southeast of Kermeos where BC Wildfire firefighters are doing a lot of work to keep the community of Chopaka safe offers up both tall grassy areas and rocky terrain – perfect conditions for run ins with rattlesnakes.

“We’re in one of their natural habitats. They’re seeing quite a few of them in long grasses,” she said.

Firefighters working the front lines always carry a stick or pulaski (wildfire tool combining an axe and a hoe). In this fire the tools offer an added benefit as a rattlesnake checker before they put their hands in a place they can’t see.

“When doing cold trailing firefighters are literally using their hands. They’re looking for lingering fire activity especially in areas where we have done burn offs. Basically they’re looking for any lingering fire activity so they’re checking rock dugouts, root systems and testing it to see if there is any remaining smouldering organic materials,” she said.

Related: Rattlesnakes in parts of South OK could be hissssss-tory

Allen wasn’t sure how many snakes crews had run into, but said it was a “regular” occurrence.

No one working the wildfire had been bitten by a rattlesnake at the time of this posting.

Other challenges faced by BC Wildfire crews working the Snowy Mountain fire include falling rocks.

“One of the other hazards we’re seeing as the fire is burning root system of trees on the steep slopes is that rocks are dislodging and they are sliding down the slopes,” she said.

The heat is offering up its own challenge with temperatures this week hovering around 40C at times. She noted because of aggressive fire behaviour, crews are working hard, “and breaks are few and far between.”

The Snowy Mountain fire was first discovered July 17 after a lightning storm went through the region. It has since grown to just over 12,000 hectares in size and is nearing the U.S. border.

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


@TaraBowieBC
editor@keremeosreview.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chilliwack-Kent 2020 provincial election candidates, clockwise from bottom left, Kelli Paddon (NDP), Eli Gagne (Libertarian), Jeff Hammersmark (Green), Jason Lum (Independent), and Laurie Throness, who began the campaign as a BC Liberal but left the party on Oct. 15.
Advance voting nears 5,000 in Chilliwack-Kent

More than 380,000 voters have voted in advance across B.C.

Owen Charpentier, 21, is charged with the Oct. 22, 2019 second-degree murder of Keith Baldwin in Chilliwack. (File)
Pre-trial dates set for Chilliwack man charged with Keith Baldwin’s murder

Owen Dale Charpentier accused in the fourth homicide of 2019 next in court June 2021

The 2020 Rotary Club of Chilliwack Book Sale is moving from Chilliwack Mall to Heritage Park to allow more room for physically-distanced shopping. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Rotary Book Sale moves from Chilliwack Mall to Heritage Park

The hugely-popular book sale is going ahead Oct. 25-31 with pandemic protocols in place

Organizers of the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival have decided to end the event after more than 20 years. / Bob Friesen File Photo
Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival cancelled – for good

Organizers say the event was so popular that too many people were attending to be sustainable

Massimo Rizzo (Penticton Vees, BCHL), middle, tries to out-maneuver two Team Canada East players during a preliminary game at the 2018 World Junior A Challenge. Team Canada West won the all-Canadian matchup 6-1.
Photo courtesy of Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images
Chilliwack Chiefs acquire Massimo Rizzo from Coquitlam Express

Chiefs hockey boss Brian Maloney has high expectations this season, and this trade is a sign of that

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

The RCMP helicopter. (File photo)
Suspect escapes after police pursuit through Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford

Police chase involved two stolen vehicles, including one taken in Mission

IIO Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Police watchdog concludes Mounties didn’t shoot Surrey teen at strip mall

IIO finds tragic death of teenager ‘not the result of any actions or inactions’ by the Surrey RCMP

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

Emergency crews shut down White Rock’s Five Corners district on Feb. 19, 2020 after an altercation left an elderly man in critical condition. (File photo)
Trial dates set in White Rock manslaughter case

Proceedings against Ross Banner, 71, set for June 2021 in Surrey Provincial Court

Most Read