A precautionary evacuation alert was issued for 51 properties in the Island Pond / Premier Lake area as a wildfire continues to burn between Skookumchuck and Canal Flats.
“An evacuation alert informs residents of the threat of a potential or impending danger. It is intended to give people time to gather things and prepare themselves so that they are ready to go should the situation worsen and an Evacuation Order be issued,” explains Information Officer Loree Duczek. “We encourage people within the evacuation alert area to put together important papers (like insurance papers), medications, valuables, supplies for children and pets, and other important items so that in the event things progress and they are asked to evacuate, they are ready to go.”
The fire, which was sparked Sunday when a tree fell on a powerline, is currently estimated at 150 hectares in size and is being actively actioned by the BC Wildfire Service both by ground and air.
In addition to the residential properties, the provincial campground at Premier Lake is included in the evacuation alert area. “If people plan to move RV trailers or boats, the alert stage is the time to do that. If an evacuation order is issued, there is no time to allow that to happen.”
“We need to stress that at this time, we have only issued an alert and it is a great time to take steps to be prepared.”
The “Island-Pond” fire, burning 13 kilometres south of Canal Flats, between there and Skookumchuck was caused when a tree hit a power line, metres away from the highway. The power line was downed, sending sparks flying which resulted in a grass fire that, because of hot, dry conditions, didn’t take long to spread. Helicopters and ground crews were immediately deployed.
The fire is affecting traffic on Highway 93 and Highway 95 in both directions, reducing the roads to single lane alternating traffic, and at times, closing it completely.
John Boivin, fire information officer for the South East Fire Centre said that the crews worked on it for most of Sunday night, working to create fire breaks to control it and adjust its direction.
“They created almost three kilometres of fire break in one night, pretty amazing work,” Boivin said. “And then they worked up to different existing road lines that could also act as fire breaks. So the fire is being actioned very intensely by our crews, we’re just continuing to work on it today.”
He said the fire will also be producing a great deal of smoke, and with the wind changing much of that smoke could come down from the valley into the Kimberley/Cranbrook area.
The fire rating remains high to extreme everywhere in the southern and south east parts of the province.
“The Cranbrook zone is among the driest areas in that very dry area,” Boivin said. “Fire danger levels are very high and the fire indexes that we rely on all indicate the fires take off on you very quickly. It just underscores how people have to be really careful with fire, be really careful with cigarettes and things like that — fire can get away from you so fast in these conditions.”