Fire season heats up

Recent fires near Castlegar and Champion Lakes have Greater Trail crews on alert

Although fire season in Greater Trail is just heating up, weeks of hot temperatures have put the area at a higher than normal risk of forest fires for this time of year.

Two fire events happened last week, the first in a remote area of Champion Lakes on Thursday.

The fire was on the west side ridge of the Champion Lakes Park area, halfway between the group of lakes and the river, said Jordan Turner, Fire Information Officer for the Southeast Fire Centre.

One initial attack crew responded to put out the fire, and no structures, campsites or roads were affected.

The cause was determined to be natural, a lightning strike, and 0.2 hectares in size, he added.

A second fire was reported on the east side of the Columbia River above the Poupore flats in Castlegar on Saturday.

“Initially smoke was reported by a pilot that afternoon,” said Turner.

He said smoke was again reported by a homeowner in the Fairview area of Castlegar later that evening.

On Sunday morning, a wildfire management branch helicopter carried a three-person “Initial Attack Crew” into the area to begin to fight the fire, said Turner.

The fire was 100 per cent contained that afternoon and the crew was flown out by helicopter with the fire now reported as out.

There were no injuries on scene and because of the remoteness of the fire, no structures were threatened.

The fire was caused by a lightning strike, said Turner, adding that it was a rank one fire, meaning it was a smouldering ground, and “creeping surface fire,” less that one hectare in size.

Turner said the fire danger risk is unusually high in Greater Trail for mid-July, which is a direct result of extended high temperatures.

“The Trail area is at a moderate to high fire danger rating,” said Turner.

“It’s been very hot the last few weeks and the forest fuels such as dead branches and pine needles are drying out rapidly.”

The area is looking more like it usually would in early August, he said.

So far this season, 41 fires have been reported in the Southeast Fire Centre, an area covering six zones that stretch from the B.C./Alberta border in the east to the Boundary area in the west and from the Canada/US border in the south to the North Columbia/Golden region in the north.

Open fire burning, which includes incendiaries such as fireworks and sky lanterns,  have been prohibited since July 8.

Campfires within the regulation size of no larger than 0.5 metres by 0.5 metres, are still allowed.

Turner said a shovel and at least eight litres of water must be readily available to extinguish the flames.

To report a wildfire or unattended campfire, call (star) *5555 on a cellphone or 1-800-663-5555. For the latest information on current wildfire activity, burning prohibitions, road closures and air quality advisories, visit bcwildfire.ca.