Numerous small wildfires keep BCWS crews in region busy

·3 min read

Residents of the Arrow Lakes, North Kootenay Lake and Slocan Valleys have gotten used to the sound of helicopters and water bombers flying overhead, as BC Wildfire Service crews have spent the last two weeks fighting dozens of fires burning in the region.

The weather in the West Kootenay has been dry and hot, continuing an almost unbroken month-long heat wave. When thunderstorms caused by daytime heating move through the area, they can spark fires in the following day or two. On August 19, after one such storm cell tracked across the area from Nakusp to Golden, detectors recorded more than 1,000 lighting strikes within the Southeast Fire Centre. Within three days, six new fires were burning just north of Trout Lake, and four in the high country near Nakusp. Dozens more burned around Revelstoke.

BCWS says its crews have prioritized these latest fires and are tackling them in order of importance.

Busy in the Southeast

The Southeast Fire Centre has been the province’s literal ‘hot spot’ for forest fires this summer, with more than double the number of fires burning as the next busiest region, Kamloops. As the Valley Voice went to press Monday, 14 fires were burning in our readership area, and 72 in the Southeast Fire Centre as a whole. About 100 new fires have started in the SEFC in the last two weeks.

Few of the West Kootenay fires seem to have grown very quickly, however, as the cool, wet weather from earlier this spring has kept high-elevation forest fire fuel harder to burn. Fire crews on the ground and in the air have put down most of the fires soon after they were detected, with only a few local fires growing larger than a hectare or two.

Briggs Creek fire

The evacuation alert for the community of South Fork, issued August 1 because of the Briggs Creek fire, was rescinded August 22. Located about 11 kilometres west of Kaslo, this ‘fire of note’ is now listed at 2,160 hectares in size.

On Monday, 29 firefighters and one helicopter were working to establish and maintain a containment line to prevent the fire’s spread. Most of the fire is in high, difficult terrain, making it impossible to action directly. BCWS says the fire behaviour is now consistently Rank 3 and 4 (moderate to highly vigorous surface fire), with crown fire being noted more commonly at higher elevations.

“Despite the increase in fire behaviour, it remains primarily at high elevation and well within control lines,” says the firefighting agency.

Mulvey Creek fire

The 18-hectare fire burning to the south and west of the Village of Slocan has remained stubbornly out of control for BCWS for more than a week. On Monday it was finally listed as ‘being held.’

Slocan Bluffs fire

A 9.5-hectare fire near the highway just north of the village of Slocan was listed as ‘under control’ on Monday. At one point there was concern the fire could prompt the closure of Hwy 6, but water bombers and helicopters have kept the persistent fire down.

Besides Briggs Creek, four other ‘fires of note’ were burning in the SEFC on August 22, including ones near Invermere, Sparwood, Cranbrook and Radium Hot Springs. None of the fires, however, were threatening homes and structures.

The fires have prompted intermittent air quality warnings in the region.

Just one other fire of note is listed by the BCWS – the Keremeos fire in the Kamloops fire district.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice