B.C. wildfires 2018: Hazy skies impacting crews in spotting new fires

18,000 people are on an evacuation alert, with 3,000 homes under an evacuation order

Crews are back out in full force today, battling 46 major wildfires and more than 500 others around B.C.

According to BC wildfire, there are 441 active wildfires as of Thursday. That includes eight new fires that sparked up overnight.

But while these numbers serve as a snapshot in a season that has picked up pace since the beginning of August, BC Wildfire Service chief information officer Kevin Skrepnek said information is shifting minute by minute.

In an update Wednesday, Skrepnek said the density of smoke has made it difficult for the province-wide team to spot new fires sparked from the sporadic lightning hitting southeastern B.C. and Vancouver Island.

“We can almost guarantee there are fires out there that haven’t been detected yet, likely lightning caused fire from over the weekend,” he said.

READ MORE: B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

For the rest of B.C., the heavy smoke is starting to thin but an advisory cautioning people to take precautions while outdoors is still in effect.

Of the major wildfires, which are highly visible or pose a potential threat to public safety: 17 in the Southeast Fire Centre, eight in the Northwest Fire Centre, eight in the Cariboo Fire Centre, one in the Coastal Fire Centre, seven are in the Kamloops Fire Centre and five in the Prince George Fire Centre.

By the numbers:

Total number of wildfires since April 1: 1,841

Total hectares burned since April 1: 388,0000

Total number of people displaced: 3,050

On an evacuation alert: 18,720

Largest wildfire burning in B.C.: Shovel Lake fire near Burns Lake, burning at about 86,000 hectares

Total number of fire personnel: 3,300

Total cost for efforts to combat fires: About $204 million

Southeast B.C.

There have been 87 new wildfire starts in the Southeast Fire Centre since Aug. 11, 49 of which are in the Boundary, Arrow and Kootenay Lake fire zones. That brings the total up to 158 fires burning in the area.

The biggest fires includes the Blazed Creek wildfire, burning 5,188 hectares in size about 26 kilometres northwest of Creston and close to Highway 3. Ten firefighters are being supported by air crafts to try and protect power lines. BC Wildfire Service has urged caution as the highway remains opened, and for commuters to watch for smoke and rolling debris.

The South of Renata Creek fire burning in the Bulldog Mountain area at about 300 hectares in size. Nine properties are on an evacuation alert along Lower Arrow Lake. Discovered Aug. 11 and believed to be caused by lightning, this fire remains zero per cent contained.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay issued an evacuation alert Tuesday for the area south of Renata. Three fires are burning in that area: east of Dog Creek (11 hectares), south of Renata Creek (two hectares) and a second one south of Renata Creek (300 hectares).

The Randal Creek wildfire continues to burn at 905 hectares, about 17 kilometres southeast of Yahk near the B.C.-U.S. border. Properties in Yahk and parts of Meadow Creek Road have been placed under an evacuation alert.

Twenty-five kilometres from downtown Grand Forks, the Lynch Creek wildfire is burning at about 50 hectares. Fifteen personnel are responding to this blaze, supported by four helicopters. The cause of exactly what sparked this fire remains under investigation. Also near Grand Forks, fire crews are making good progress on the Toronto Creek wildfire, classified as 70 per cent contained and about 11 hectares in size.

Northwest B.C.

Some of the largest wildfires are burning in the northwest fire centre.

Shovel Lake, burning 30 kilometres northeast of Burns Lake remains the largest wildfire burning in the province at an estimated 68,375 hectares. Yesterday, crews and heavy equipment worked to fortify the western side where the burn-off occurred two days ago to set up an anchor point for crews to work from. Bulkley-Nechako Regional District placed properties under an evacuation order yesterday and the fire remains active.

A state of local emergency has been declared due to the Island Lake wildfire along the shores of Francois Lake. That fire is an estimated 14,864 hectares. The fire is moving down towards the south shore of the lake, BC Wildfire Service said, while moving around the south side of Anzus Lake. Crews are assessing the growth and continuing to build guards.

Other evacuation orders have been issued due to the West Babine River wildfire, Tweedsmuir Complex and Nadina-Verdun wildfires.

Fire crews and air support are continuing efforts to minimize further impact to the communities of Telegraph Creek and Glenora due to the 36,380-hectare Alkali Lake fire. Work is being done to identify and remove burnt trees that pose a safety threat in Telegraph Creek and along the Highway 51 corridor. Crews are also assessing hazards and are working to cool hot spots in Telegraph Creek. More than 150 firefighters, including personnel from Australia and New Zealand are combating this fire.

For more details: Click here.

Cariboo region

Fire crews are continuing to work to control several blazes that are still zero per cent contained. These include the North Baezaeko wildfire burning south of Kluskoil Lake Park at about 2,500 hectares, the Blackwater River fire 72 kilometres west of Quesnel at about 4,519 hectares and the Shag Creek fire which is 9,300 hectares.

The Shag Creek wildfire has forced 900 properties to evacuate in the Titetown, Klusklus and Batnuni area after being expanded Aug. 11. Crews have been pulled off that fire due to safety reasons.

Meanwhile, ground crews have made solid progress on a number of major wildfires, including the Lang Lake wildfire 10 kilometres north of Canim Lake, which is 70 per cent contained; The 300-hectare fire burning northwest of Mayfield Lake, which is 60 per cent contained; the Narcosli Creek fire 31 kilometres southwest of Quesnel, which is 50 per cent contained; the Wild Goose Lake fire burning 7,228 hectares, which is 40 per cent contained; and the Horsefly Lake fire just west of Haggens Point Road, which is 90 per cent contained.

Weather permiiting, the BC Wildfire Service may be conducting planned ignitions on multiple fires in coming days.

Coastal B.C.

The only major wildfire by BC Wildfire Service standards is burning 10 kilometres north of Agassiz, called the Mt. Hicks fire. At 120 hectares in size, the fire is now 15 per cent contained. Steep terrain above Highway 7 has caused issues for a ground crews of 45 firefighters, as well as four helicopters and one piece of heavy machinery.

The highway is being closed intermittently to assist crews and aircraft as they battle the blaze.

On Vancouver Island, several fires are accounting for the hazy skies. The Zeballos fire in Campbell River is an estimated 80 hectares in size, but burning close to the village of the Ehattesaht First Nation. BC Wildfire Service said the terrain has posed a major safety hazard for firefighters.

Kamloops and Okanagan region

The Snowy Mountain fire – once the largest concern in the region – is now being considered as “held” by BC Wildfire Service. At 13,359 hectares in size, the wildfire has not grown in recent days. On Thursday, 11 BC Wildfire Service personnel were on site with two helicopters.

As BC Wildfire Service gains control of Okanagan wildfires, the regional district is redeploying firefighters to lend support in the north. The support from the regional district comes in light of the Provincial State of Emergency declaration.

Prince George region

Five wildfires continue to burn in the Prince George fire centre that are either highly visible or pose a threat to public safety.

The largest fire in the region is the 10,590-hectare Chutanli Lake fire burning 11 kilometres northeast of Tatelkuz Lake. While no structures are threatened as of Thursday, the fire remains out of control.

The Purvis Lake fire, burning 1,457-hectares in size just 20 kilometres east of Takla Lake is 15 per cent contained, but BC Wildfire Service said the fire has been erratic and threatening to impact the Driftwood Forest Service Road.

Other fires burning in the region include the North of Tezzeron Lake, burning at 4,386 hectares about 100 kilometres northwest of Vanderhoof, the 10,000-hectare High Allen Creek fire burning 60 kilometres southeast of Valemount and the Dave Henry Drainage fire burning at 700 hectares in size 10 kilometres east of Valemount.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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