Eight new fires reported since Saturday means in just one week, the South East Fire Centre has responded to 44 wildfires. That’s more fires reported in seven days than the entire 2014 fire season to the same date, says Fanny Bernard, fire information officer.
“So it’s a big fire load,” she explained from the centre’s Castlegar office Monday morning. “We’ve had good success with initial attack crews working really hard in catching these fires when they are still small.”
Clouds and light precipitation over the weekend provided fire crews some relief, she says, but fire danger ratings remain mostly extreme in the region.
“Cooler and higher humidity is helping the suppression efforts,” she said. “It’s patchy at best and may only modify the (forest) fuel moisture content momentarily. But that changes pretty quick as soon as temperatures go back to seasonal and we get some sun.”
She reminds the public that regardless the amount of rain, campfires are banned, Category 2 and Category 3 prohibitions have not changed, and a public access restriction remains for the Sitkum Creek area.
Since Saturday the Sitkum Creek fire, located four kilometres (km) north of Kootenay Lake, had consumed 450 hectares and after two days of fire suppression was 30 per cent contained.
Locally, initial attack teams were at six sites Monday, suppressing smaller lightning-caused fires as well as a 20-person crew attending a fire of note two km south of Silverton.
Of the six fires, each reported to be under one hectare, four are located directly across from Deer Park at Lower Arrow Lake, another is two km west of Slocan Lake, and a 0.7 hectare fire burning near China Creek.
“The fires are small but still active,” said Bernard. “So crews will be actively suppressing by constructing a fire guard, and doing a mop-up.”
The larger Mount Aylwin fire burning near Silverton was estimated to be about eight hectares and 10 per cent contained Monday morning.
Seventeen homeowners in the area remained on an evacuation alert issued by the Regional District of Central Kootenay, confirmed Bernard.
Besides 20 firefighters on scene, crews clearing heli-pad areas for two helicopters being used to battle the blaze.
“They are doing full suppression of the west flank between the fire and the homes,” she added. “The evacuation alert gives people time to prepare themselves to leave on a moment’s notice. Things like pets, gathering medications and personal mementos because if they do have to leave – it will be immediate.”
By noon Sunday, there were 251 active wildfires burning across the province, 22 active fires of note.
Current statistics show over 1,200 hectares have burned across the centre’s region, which encompasses an area that stretches from the B.C./Alberta border in the east to the Boundary area in the west and from the Canada/U.S. Border in the south to the North Columbia/Golden region in the north.