The theft was discovered on Sunday while fire crews were performing perimeter checks. They found that emergency fire suppression equipment had gone missing, and believe that the theft happened sometime between 7pm on 10 July and the morning of 11 July.
An official from the Regional District of Central Kootenay told the Surrey Now-Leader that the equipment that is believed to have been stolen is worth approximately $2,000. The pilfered items include more than 1,000 feet of hose meant for use in the forests and six sprinklers. The items had been deployed to protect a nearby home.
The Castlegar Royal Canadian Mounted Police are asking the public for help identifying the thief.
Nora Hannon, the regional fire chief of the RDCK, said it was hard to believe that someone would steal fire fighting equipment during the peak of wildfire season.
“It is extremely disappointing and hard to imagine why anyone would steal this important, life saving equipment,” she said. “We want to make sure everyone in the community is aware the theft has occurred and ask anyone with information to please come forward to Castlegar RCMP”.
The district said that the equipment was a crucial part of its strategy to protect homes from wildfires. Replacing the equipment has also become more difficult, as the increase in fires has made suppression equipment highly sought after.
The wildfire in Merry Creek began on 1 July and has since grown to encompass 37 acres (15ha). The fire has not destroyed any structures.
Earlier this week, fire officials near Castlegar warned residents to keep away from the area as the Merry Creek Fire continued to burn.
Firefighters on the scene are not actively fighting the wildfire, but have been patrolling its edges to determine if there are any especially dangerous spots.
Fire officials said that while fire fighters may be seen near the edges of the fire, residents should stay back, as no one - including the firefighters - are safe within the perimeter.
The immediate proximity of a wildfire is not only dangerous because of the fire, but also because the blaze destroys stumps and root systems, which can cause trees to topple over.
Fire officials believe the Merry Creek Fire was started by a human, but it is still being investigated.