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45 new wildfires spark after lightning hits dry areas of B.C.

There are 89 wildfires actively burning in B.C., six of them are wildfires of note
Unit Crew mopping up a spot on the Keremeos Creek Wildfire (BC Wildfire Service photo)

Several new wildfires have been sparked in southern B.C. after recent lightning storms rolled through parts of the province.

Data from the BC Wildfire Service shows 44 new fires have started in the last two days. Clusters of new fires sprung up in the wake of lightning storms on western Vancouver Island and the Interior from Prince George to the U.S. border. Approximately 74 per cent of the fires currently burning were caused by lightning.

Environment Canada posted heat warnings for the Fraser Canyon, north Thompson and inland sections of the north and central coast as temperatures in the mid-to-high 30s were expected to continue through Friday in the Interior.

So far in 2022, there have been 638 wildfires. There are 89 wildfires actively burning in B.C., six of them are wildfires of note.

Keremeos Creek

Location: 21 kilometres southwest of Penticton

Estimated size: 6,712 hectares

Cause: Under investigation

The BC Wildfire Service says conditions have “remained favourable” to fight the Keremeos Creek wildfire. Wildfire suppression crews continued patrols, hot-spotting and mop-up in the wildland-urban interface, Highway 3A and along key sections of the guard.

“Established control lines continue to hold well. The fire continues to grow slowly in the more inaccessible areas where it is not contained. Yesterday saw an uptick in fire activity in the Cedar Creek area. Crews continue to apply direct attack and indirect attack fire suppression tactics to achieve containment of the Keremeos Creek wildfire,” the wildfire service said.

The fire remains uncontrolled, and while the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen rescinded almost half of the nearly 500 evacuation orders covering properties closest to the blaze, 273 remain in place.

Nearly 400 properties are under an evacuation alert, which means they have to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

Overnight, a vehicle fire on Highway 3 spread into nearby brush in the area near Sumac Road, 18 km east of Keremeos and 20 km west of Osoyoos. The fire has since grown to 25 hectares.

READ MORE: Flames from vehicle fire quickly spread off Highway 3 east of Keremeos

A contingent of 282 wildfire service memebrs are working on B.C.’s biggest blaze. They are supported by 16 helicopters, and 45 pieces of heavy equipment, and 51 structural protection personnel from fire departments across B.C. for a total of 333 firefighters.

Cummings Creek

Location: Five kilometres west of Sparwood

Estimated size: 52.6 hectares

Cause: Lightning

Over the past several days, wildfire activity has continued within the perimeter of the fire, though some growth has been observed on the southwestern flank.

Access to the fire has been limited by the steep terrain. Air access has also been limited by smoky conditions. If smoke conditions allow, there is the potential for helicopter bucketing to occur on the northern flank of the fire, along Cummings Creek to provide some cooling effects to the fire behaviour today.

There are 42 firefighters working on this fire. The Incident Management Team assigned to the Connell Ridge wildfire and the Weasel Creek wildfire has taken over control of the Cummings Creek wildfire and resources will be shared between the three incidents as required.

Weasel Creek

Location: Two kilometres west of Frozen Lake and 39 kilometres southeast of Baynes Lake

Estimated size: 1,087 hectares

Cause: Lightning

The fire crossed the border into Canada from the U.S. on Aug. 4 after it was initially discovered in the U.S. on July 30. The BC Wildfire Service is anticipating aggressive fire behaviour over the coming days.

It is not an interface fire and poses little risk to nearby towns. However, an area restriction near the fire has been expanded to protect the public.

This restriction will take effect immediately and will remain in effect until 12 p.m. (PDT) on October 15, 2022, or until rescinded. The order applies to Crown land within the geographic boundaries described below and outlined in the provided map.

There are eight B.C. firefighters assigned to Weasel Creek. Jurisdictional collaboration is continuing between the Incident Management Team (IMT) in the United States located in Eureka and the BC Wildfire Service Incident Management Team in Canada located in Elko.

Connell Ridge

Location: 23 kilometres south of Cranbrook

Estimated size: 1,503 hectares

Cause: Lightning

Crews had to scrap a large planned ignition operation yesterday (Aug. 11) because conditions were “unfavourable”. Conditions improved overnight, but by that time it was too late to go ahead with the operation.

“The ignition specialist was able to direct some smaller ignitions closer to the fire perimeter to clean up the edges where we had the ability to complete the mission prior to grounding aircraft for the night. The smaller ignition area was approximately 15 hectares in size and will be reflected on the Wildfires of Note page as soon as an updated, accurate perimeter can be tracked,” the wildfire service said.

READ MORE: Southern Interior impacted by smoky skies

Operations staff will be going ahead with a backup plan, which involves laying out and building containment lines on the fire’s edge to the north and south flanks.

An Evacuation Alert has been issued by the Regional District of East Kootenay in the vicinity of this fire.

There are 51 firefighters, 13 helicopters and 25 pieces of heavy equipment on this fire.

Briggs Creek

Location: 11.5 kilometres west of Kaslo

Estimated size: 1,679 hectares

Cause: Lightning

The Briggs Creek wildfire continues to burn within a “desirable area”, the wildfire service says.

“The fire is currently behaving agreeably with our current operation and tactical plan, is still burning within the desired area and has not threatened our containment lines.”

The forecast sustained hot dry weather is expected to reduce relative humidity and increase fuel drying, these conditions are expected to increase fire behaviour; which will cause it to become more visible in the coming days.

This fire is very visible to the town of Kaslo and surrounding areas. In the evening hours, the fire may appear closer than it is due to the glowing nature of fire at night. Ground crews continue to monitor the fire.

There are 16 firefighters and one helicopter working on the fire.

Maria Creek

Location: 6 kilometres northeast of Pavilion

Estimated size: 1,004.3 hectares

Cause: Lightning

There has been no significant growth at the Maria Creek fire since Aug. 3. The fire continues to burn in old cut blocks where fuels are patchy and disorganized.

A thunderstorm rolling through the area could increase fire behaviour due to lightning strikes and strong wind gusts, however the fire continues to show Rank 1 behaviour.

“Crews are progressing well on patrolling for hot spots around the fire perimeter, only small sections of the perimeter remain to be patrolled. They are now pushing inwards from the perimeter in some areas. Patrolling involves searching for areas of heat and flames, establishing water delivery to them or using hand tools and extinguishing it,” the wildfire service said.

There are 57 firefighters, one helicopter and five pieces of heavy equipment on this fire.

– With files from the Canadian Press


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