Air quality continues to be degraded across the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, with monitoring stations reporting that the Air Quality Health Index exceeds the maximum value. That means, on a scale of 1 to 10, the index is currently at 10+. Those with respiratory conditions, the very young and the elderly should seek shelter indoors until conditions improve. Guy Bertrand photo

Air quality continues to be degraded across the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, with monitoring stations reporting that the Air Quality Health Index exceeds the maximum value. That means, on a scale of 1 to 10, the index is currently at 10+. Those with respiratory conditions, the very young and the elderly should seek shelter indoors until conditions improve. Guy Bertrand photo

Wildfires prompt RDKB evacuation alerts

The regional district issued the alert to all properties within the Big Sheep Creek drainage area

Several properties in rural Area B outside of Rossland remained on evacuation alert Monday after lightning sparked seven new wild fires over the weekend.

“These storms arrived with lightning, but not very much rain,” advised Chris March from the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB).

“As such, lightning strikes by and large started fires immediately. The BC Wildfire Service was very challenged yesterday (Saturday) due to high winds and temperatures as well as an incredible number of new fires all across the southeast,” he said.

“Many fires were not able to be actioned immediately, which means that these fires had an opportunity to grow beyond the initial attack stage. At this point, there are numerous out of control wildfires burning in southeast B.C.”

The RDKB issued the alert on Sunday afternoon to all properties within the Big Sheep Creek drainage area southwest of Rossland including Hadley Road, Thompson Road, Big Sheep Creek Road and the Old Rossland Cascade Highway section near Sheep Creek.

Affected residents are advised to prepare items called “The 5 Ps,” which refers to people, pets, prescriptions, paper and photos.

Additionally, the district advises valuables such as RVs be moved, and that a designated meeting place be set up outside the evacuation area.

Another evacuation alert was issued Sunday for all properties east of Kilometre 2 on Santa Rosa Road east of Christina Lake.

This fire is located near Castle Mountain, approximately 22 kilometres southwest of Rossland.

Due to the potential danger from a 35-hectare wildfire burning near McArthur Creek outside of Salmo, the Regional District of Central Kootenay issued an evacuation order to three rural properties on Friday.

With 27 new evacuation orders affecting an estimated 3,100 people and 1,537 properties as of Monday, and many weeks remaining in the fire season, the province announced it was requesting assistance from the federal government.

“This is an urgent situation, and the safety of British Columbians is our highest priority,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General in an Aug. 13 release.

“Due to the increase in the number of wildfires affecting communities and the extreme wildfire behaviour we are seeing, we’re asking for federal assistance for additional resources that may be needed to protect the public, property and infrastructure.”

The province is requesting 200 self-sufficient personnel to perform the mop-up and patrol of contained fires under the supervision of the BC Wildfire Service, heavy-lift aircraft to re-position wildfire crews and equipment to new fire starts that threaten communities, and aircraft for emergency transport of injured personnel and to help evacuate people in remote areas, should evacuation routes be compromised.

More than 3,400 dedicated wildfire personnel are responding to some 600 wildfires currently burning in all areas of the province. This includes BC Wildfire Service crews, contractors, municipal firefighters, industry personnel and out-of-province crews from throughout Canada, as well as Mexico, Australia and New Zealand.

As of Monday morning, a total of 70 evacuation alerts were affecting approximately 21,000 people across B.C.