Helicopters are stationed out at a field on the west side of Lake Koocanusa as the Linklater wildfire has touched off evacuation orders and alerts on both sides.

UPDATED: Wildfires continue to burn in the area

Residents grapple with evacuation orders and alerts in the region.

UPDATED: Late Sunday night, the RDEK issued an evacuation ORDER for for the Whiteswan Lake area.

The evacuation ORDER area includes:

• The 4 private properties adjacent to Whiteswan Lake and Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park, including all campgrounds.

The estimated combined size is 10,000 hectares and has been burning since the end of July.

——————-

The East Kootenay region had been relatively unscathed from the worst wildfire season in provincial history.

Until now.

Three large wildfires have broken out in the region as crews tackle blazes in Moyie, St. Mary River and the Canada-United States border at Lake Koocanusa.

The Lamb Creek fire out near Moyie was first reported early last week on Aug. 28 and has quickly blown up to over 1,400 hectares. The fire eventually forced the evacuation of the entire small community, from Moyie to Munroe Lake, which includes over 400 properties.

A Stuctural Protection Unit team continues to do assessments in Munroe Lake and Greenbay area, according to the RDEK.

RELATED: Evacuation order issued for Moyie/Munroe Lake areas

An evacuation order was also issued for properties around Newgate on the west side of Lake Koocanusa that are being threatened by the Linklater fire, which recently jumped across the border and is estimated at 305 hectares in size in Canada and 2,744 hectares in the US.

An evacuation alert has also been issued for the east side of Lake Koocanusa in the Grasmere area.

Evacuees being told to go to the Cranbrook Curling Centre to register at the Emergency Reception Centre. Volunteers are on site taking information and the Salvation Army is also helping out and doing what ever is needed to support emergency personnel, according to Major Kirk Green.

The fire on the north side of the St. Mary River sparked up on Friday and quickly grew to 400 hectares. An evacuation order issued Friday for 36 homes in the aq̓am community was rescinded to an evacuation alert on Sunday, as BC Wildfire crews, City of Cranbrook firefighters and volunteers are currently holding the fire and have it 75 per cent contained.

An evacuation alert is also in effect for the Mission/Fort Steele area that includes approximately 100 properties.

Backcountry closure

The province shut down access to the backcountry in the Rocky Mountain Natural Resource District on Friday, citing the extreme fire danger rating and the number of aggressive fires burning in the area.

No one is allowed to enter crown land within the resource district unless travelling to a personal residence, using a highway, travelling as a person in an official capacity or travelling to support wildfire suppression activities.

The backcountry closure does not apply to range tenure holders, commercial activities, including backcountry tourism, to remove or monitor assets, angling on the Elk River between Sparwood and Elko, utility transmission operations for emergency restoration work, large scale mining operations, forest industry personnel to remove equipment or service, and Mine Act Permit holders who wish to remove equipment.

The order also doesn’t apply to BC Parks front country parks such as Dry Gulch, James Charbot, Premier Lake, Wasa, Jimsmith Lake, Kikomun Creek, Mount Fernie, Moyie Lake, Norbury Lake, Yahk, Columbia Lake.

Additionally, the order does not apply to Crown land covered by water within the restricted area, provided that access and egress to water is via private land, municipal land, highway or BC Parks front country boat launch facility.

However, the one exception is Moyie Lake, which is banned to watercraft as fire crews continue to tackle the Lamb Creek blaze.

Other closures

On Sunday, the city closed both Idlewild Park and Elizabeth Lake to all public access until further notice in order to reduce the risk of wildfire in the municipality.

The closure was announced in order to remain consistent with the backcountry closure implemented on Saturday throughout the entire Rocky Mountain Forest District. Access to the NorthStar Rails to Trails, the Cranbrook to Wardner Destination Trail (Isadore Canyon) and the City’s spray irrigation property was closed on Saturday as well.

All Crown land around the City of Cranbrook is closed to public access including the Community Forest and South Star.

The RDEK has also announced additional closures including the marshalling areas at the Tie Lake, Wasa, and Canal Flats transfer stations. The waste bins will remain open to the public. As of Sunday, the following parks have been closed:

• Wycliffe Park

• Wycliffe Exhibition Grounds

• Elk Valley Park

• Tie Lake Park

• Cherry Creek Falls Park

• Avery Road Lake Access

• Old Coach Trail – (Dry Gulch to Radium)

• Aldridge Community Park

• West Fernie Park

Signage has been placed at some sites today, and more will be done on Monday. If you see people accessing Crown land, you are asked to contact the provincial RAPP line at 1- 877-952-7277 (RAPP) to report it.

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