Petit Creek wildfire still burning out of control

·3 min read

There has been a spate of early fire activity in the Merritt area, filling the skies in the Nicola Valley with smoke over the month of April.

According to the BC Wildfire Service there are currently four active fires in the area, at Spahomin Creek, Coldwater River, Buck Ridge, and of the most concern is the blaze at Petit Creek, 18kms northwest of Merritt.

“It is still out of control… it’s currently 100 hectares in size,” said Gagan Lidhran, information officer with BC Wildfire Service on Tuesday April 22.

“The fire is under investigation, but it’s suspected to be human caused. Most fires at this point in time are suspected human caused, but they will be under investigation to rule out how the activity occurred.”

42 BC Wildfire Service personnel are on site, working alongside two pieces of heavy equipment.

“There were some access issues, so the heavy equipment is being used to help get access to specific portions of the fire for our crews,” said Lidhran.

Two helicopters are also providing aerial assistance, dropping water from nearby water sources, such as the Nicola River.

Our fire objectives remain to just continue to develop a hand guard and machine guard around the perimeter of the fire,” said Lidhran.

“We haven’t seen any growth overnight, and winds were the factor as to why the growth did occur over Sunday. At this point, I don’t have an exact estimation of how far it is from structures, but we are noting that the public contact the TNRD for the evacuation alert for the Canford and Miller Estates subdivision and just connect with them for any information in relation to the evacuation alert.”

The TNRD issued an evacuation alert for Miller Estates Subdivision and the Canford Community, warning residents that their properties may be in danger if winds continued to push the fire in their direction. The alert was rescinded on Wednesday, April 21.

“Early spring fires are generally driven by wind, dry conditions and dead surface fuels, so grass and needles, particularly grass that is curing in valley bottoms and at lower elevations,” Lidhran explained.

“This type of activity is not unusual in the spring, however because the grass and fuels are still dead from the winter and haven’t had a chance to green up or retain moisture from precipitation, as we didn’t really receive significant precipitation over the winter and haven’t really had our spring rains yet, the fuels are quite dry and volatile. If you combine that with the high winds and the unseasonably warm temperatures we’ve been experiencing over the last couple of weeks, this can cause fires to spread quite quickly.”

Lidhran notes that there are no lightning strikes at this time of year, which eliminates them as a possible cause for wildfires.

“I believe we should be seeing some precipitation later this week, however, that doesn’t mean that we should get complacent,” said Lidhran.

“It is very important for people to still be extremely cautious of their open burning and any kind of activity that they are conducting in relation to fires… there is a significant risk of wildfires igniting in the region.”

A 500 hectare at Spahomin Creek near Upper Nicola is now being held. The Coldwater River fire southwest of Merritt is now under control after reaching three hectares. The Buck Ridge fire, which sparked very near to the Petit Creek fire, was quickly brought under control by BC Wildfire Service.

“We don’t anticipate it to spread any further due to suppression tactics,” said Lidhran, who notes the main focus remains the Petit Creek fire.

Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald