A leisurely day of boating for a B.C. couple turned into an adrenaline-filled afternoon of improvised firefighting that left many who witnessed the spectacle heralding them as heroes.
Koyne Watson and Tasha Hunt used their jet boat's towering spray to help battle a grass fire off the banks of the South Thompson River just east of Kamloops, B.C. on Saturday.
The pair's fight against the flames prompted applause from other boaters in the river.
The couple were taking their high-powered jet boat out for the first time this season, and had planned on a relaxing, hour-long pleasure cruise.
"We were actually just floating with some friends ... and we noticed some smoke," recalled Hunt. "And so I thought, 'Oh my God, that's a fire.'"
They steered the boat closer and Hunt said she "panicked," realizing it was an actual fire. She quickly called emergency crews.
She said she could see houses near the intense grass fire.
'Took a shot at it'
That's when her fiancé, Watson, suggested using the massive spray at the end of their water-propelled boat to try to "snuff it out" until firefighters arrived.
They didn't think the idea would work because the fire was high up on the river bank.
But they tried.
"He just spun the boat around and took a shot at it," said Hunt.
"So he went again and again and it was crazy — people were cheering so we knew we were doing some kind of good on the flames."
Watson, a self-professed "speed freak," said he cranked the boat's motor — nearly 1,000 horsepower — and targeted the blaze.
"I just drove that boat and hung on to that horsepower," he said.
"We jumped it out of the water numerous times, we did a 360 [degrees] in it once, we were definitely hard on the boat for sure."
Hunt said she watched closely and tried to give Watson directions while hanging on for her life.
"Oh my gosh, pure adrenaline, like I was shaking," she recalled. "That boat has so much horsepower I was just focused on staying on the boat."
'Hero of the day'
Lorrie Jane Arnott watched the stunning display from the water, along with about a dozen other boaters.
She said Watson's expression was unforgettable when fire trucks arrived.
"He stopped his boat. He put his hands through his hair and he looked like, holy crow," she said.
It wasn't just Watson who was surprised, said Arnott.
"Everyone stood up on their boats and applauded him," she said. "He was definitely the hero of the day."
Watson said his fiancée was equally responsible for helping out, but the pair don't want to be singled out for their efforts because fire crews quickly arrived to do most of the heavy lifting.
Fire officials respond
The province's chief fire information officer, Kevin Skrepnek, said he saw video of Watson's efforts, but can't determine if it ultimately made a difference to the fight.
Normally, he said the public is asked to avoid putting themselves in danger or accessing fire zones, but he recognized this incident was different.
"Obviously this one is a little bit unique given the fellow was on a boat and not necessarily on the ground where the fire could have gotten to him," Skrepnek said.
Air tankers were on standby to attend to the fire but Skrepnek says the local fire department was able to knock down the blaze fairly quickly.