The two families who worked together for three hours to extinguish a fire threatening Manning Park posed later for a photograph together. (Submitted photo)

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Two families sprang into action in Manning Park this weekend, when a small-but-potentially-devastating fire was spotted.

The wildfire scare was on Aug. 16, and the park’s marketing manager Robyn Barker says it offered a stark reminder to stay fire smart. The fire was discovered near Flash Lake, she says, “but thanks to the dedicated actions of two families of hikers, the fire was extinguished.”

A young family with a five year old and seven year old were on their very first overnight backpacking trip, to Strike Lake along the Lightning Lakes chain, when the dad saw smoke near the shoreline of Flash Lake. He knew it was an area not permitted for camping or having a fire, and decided to investigate.

But first, the man messaged some co-workers via an InReach GPS satellite communicator, asking them to report the smoke.

“Something didn’t sit right with me and I decided to hike around the lake while my family took a snack break,” says the man, identified only as Rick.

When he checked it out, he found a five-square metre area that was smouldering and on fire. Rick returned to his family and they all began to help put it out. Being an avid hiker in Manning Park, he says, “We would not sit by to watch the beginning of a forest fire in one of our favourite places to hike.”

After sending another emergency message, Rick cleared brush and trees to remove fuel, while his wife, Andra, hauled water from the lake about 5 m away.

“My two boys helped by poking at the extinguished areas and throwing small branches and undergrowth into the lake,” he says.

Barker says that with a dry forest and a concern about an increase in the winds, the fire had the potential to expand quickly, so they kept at it for two hours as a team.

Then, another family of three adults and five children happened along. They were Andrew and Paige Irwin, and their family were keen to assist in the efforts and jumped in to help.

“We continued to dump water on the fire with our Osprey Dry bags, about 10 litres at a time for about three hours and what I can best guess would have been over 1,500 litres of water,” Rick says.

A Manning Park crew attended after hearing the call and found that the fire had been extinguished already and the hikers had moved on with their hike to Strike Lake.

A BC Wildfire crew also attended with a helicopter to put it out.

Park Area Manager, Andy Boulé, tells the perspective from the Manning Park crew who attended.

“We mobilized a small team of four of us and started the hike in,” Boulé says.

They arrived just before the helicopter, and just missed meeting the families who saved the day.

“We did a bit more digging and spraying to confirm the fire had no hot spots under the roots,” Boulé adds. “When the BC Wildfire crew got there, they confirmed as well.”

Although Boulé and the BC Wildfire team didn’t meet the hikers, after posting about the scare on the Manning Park Resort Facebook page, the full story came from Rick.

Boulé expressed his thanks to everyone involved.

“It is obvious by your actions that you love the park, too, and I am proud to have such great stewards and friends of Manning out there helping! Thank you so much for your caring and effort!”

In Rick’s post, he commented how the whole family found it quite an adventure and they were glad that they were able to protect the park that they all love, but after all that hard work, they needed a vacation.

And so, they’re getting one.

“Manning Park Resort recognizes the incredible efforts made to protect the park from these two families,” Barker says, and so they have offered both families another vacation to Manning Park Resort, with a night in one of the new premium cabins and their choice of boat rentals or ski lift tickets.

“Hopefully, this will be a vacation where they can relax,” she adds.

Manning Park Resort is a four-season destination with full Resort amenities including a variety of accommodations, restaurant, pub, swimming pool, fitness centre, group facilities and outdoor recreation.

Located in EC Manning Provincial Park, which boasts over 300km of hiking and multi-purpose trails, the resort is 45 minutes east of Hope on Highway #3.

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