Ruin & Renewal: Fire on the Interior Plateau

Trevor Briggs conducting a burn-out to protect the Cariboo Fire Centre and Williams Lake airport on July 8, 2017. Photo by Stephan Karolat, Blackwater Unit Crew Leader.
Black and white photograph showing a large twin engine plane dropping water as it appears to be taking off. Photo taken from in front of plan at 3/4 view.
A large, twin engine bomber drops a massive amount of water near the runway tarmac, c. 1950. Photo courtesy: BC Wildfire Service

This exhibition explores our relationship with fire through an evolution of ideas, including the way we manage it today, with an emphasis on local practices.

Arriving just prior to the first anniversary of the area’s largest fire season on record, Ruin & Renewal provides ways for volunteers, evacuees, firefighters, and others to share their stories about the fires. It also helps create a historical record of living with a force that has always been connected with human life. With information, images, and artifacts from individuals and agencies, including Kamloops Fire Rescue, BC Wildfire Service, and Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, cultural issues surrounding fire are explored, including deliberate burning, the scientific understanding of fire, and the tools and techniques of contemporary fire management.

Encompassing a range of biogeoclimatic zones, the Interior Plateau is home to large, softwood forests next to hot, dry grasslands, making fire an ever-present possibility for Kamloops. For many people, this possibility is seen as catastrophic, causing disastrous losses of property and life. Yet, fire also has regenerative properties and is a crucial aspect of the processes of biodiversification. Fire’s presence in our landscape, industry, and cultural traditions make it a subject worth investigating.

Colour photograph showing a mountainscape with a cloud of smoke rising diagonally across the image. Near the base of the smoke, at image centre, a helicopter flies through the scene.
A spectacular scene of a helicopter conducting heli-torch burn-off operations during the 2015 Cisco wildfire, south of Lytton. Photo courtesy: BC Wildfire Service
black and white photo, shows building framework alight with fire
KMA Photo # 615 Index Card Entry: from back of pic, About 1898 1900 Burning of the old MacIntosh Saw Mill Loaned by R.G. Pinchbeck Catalogue Entry: Burning of James McIntosh’s sawmill, located adjoining re-erected fort site and shown in other pictures, about 1900.
Black and white photo of a St Ann's School smouldering in flames through its roof while people in the foreground look on
KMA Photo 1727: St. Ann’s Academy fire May 8, 1945.
Colour photo showing an exaggerated view from down low of a stand of trees ablaze
2002 Blaze in Kamloops Photo courtesy: BC Wildfire Service
Colour photo showing RCMP vehicle and a horse being led along a road while smoke fills the background sky
Urgency and complexity become intertwined elements of any evacuation circumstance. Authorities in some cases are able to step in and make humane gestures, or take extra steps to protect property, even as fires rage around them. In this instance a spectacular moment occurs when horses receive a police escort down a road during the 2003 Barriere–McLure fire Photo courtesy: BC Wildfire Service
Colour photo of chain link fence at a fire refugee camp, upon which is a hand-drawn sign reading, "thank you firefighters. You're our heroes!"
Symbols of gratitude emerged amidst serious risk to personal safety, where firefighters often represented the difference between saving or losing a home. Photo: Paul Simako. Courtesy: BC Wildfire Service
Colour photo of blue sky, a yellow grassland and tree hillscape, and a plane slashing through the middle, dropping bright red retardent
A tanker drops retardant in a perimeter as smoke approaches. Photo courtesy: BC Wildfire Service
Colour photo shows a plane flying straight toward the camera above some large sunlit clouds
An RJ 465 returning from the Elephant Hill fire, 2017. Photo: by LesLarkin. Courtesy: Conair Group Inc.
Colour photograph shows a plane emerging from a cloud and smoke filled sky. Sky is coloured rose and yellow gold.
An Avro RJ85 from the Conair fleet emerges from the smoke and flames of the Philpott Road fire, 2017. Photo: Ethan Delichte, Prime Light Media. Courtesy: Conair Group Inc.
Colour photo shows a plane about 200ft from camera flying from left to right approaching a body of water. In the foreground, two children play on a dock and watch the plane, as do two others from a raised deck and a further two from a small inflatable watercraft
Life continues on in a place where fire forms a natural, if at times disastrous feature of existence. Angle Mountain fire, 2017. Photo Courtesy: Conair Group Inc.
Colour photo showing a plane at centre, close up, skimming right to left across water. background shows yellowed grasslands.
Close up shot of an amphibious Fire Boss aircraft coming in to replenish its tanks by scooping water right out of the lake, pond or river. Photo Courtesy: Conair Group Inc.
Black and white photo showing exterior close up view from side of front of plane including cockpit.
As the huge propeller spins, a lone figure stands atop this large water bomber circa 1950. Photo courtesy: BC Wildfire Service
Black and white photo showing a float plane at water's edge with a mountainscape in the background.
BC Wildfire Service Entry (excerpt): de Havilland Beaver CF–FHB. Operated by BC Airways, New Denver, BC, 1950. Photo courtesy: BC Wildfire Service This aircraft is the prototype (first) Beaver built and was used for 32 years as a bush plane. Designed in response to the demands of Canadian bush pilots, 1,692 were made between 1947 and 1968, making it the most–ever produced Canadian aircraft to date. The Beaver was adopted as a utility aircraft in the US and other militaries including Korea’s, where it was known as, “The General’s Jeep.” Photo courtesy: BC Wildfire Service
Older colour photograph showing a plane approaching the camera from a distance over a hillscape
BC Archives Copy # FS 15790–2 Entry: Piper Super Cub on fire detection patrol near Merritt, BC. 1966 Photo courtesy: BC Wildfire Service