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Posted: August 19, 2022

East Kootenay wildfire update

The BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) is continuing attacks on the four wildfires of note in the East Kootenay, with no new fires reported today (August 19).

The Mount Docking wildfire about 27 kilometres east of the Village of Radium Hot Springs is now an estimated 1,333 hectares.

Discovered July 30, the lightning-caused fire is today being attacked by 48 firefighters backed by five helicopters and four pieces of heavy equipment.

“Fire behaviour has been moderate yesterday and today (Rank 2-3). For more information on fire rank click here. Smoke is expected to increase in the afternoons and continue to be visible in the coming days,” BCWS stated.

“The weather forecast is calling for slightly cooler temperatures on Saturday and Sunday, and a little more humidity. There is potential for thunderstorms in the region, gusty winds are possible if these storm cells pass, which could mean a short-lived increase of fire behaviour.

“Heavy equipment has completed a guard on operable ground on the west flank, closest to the Kootenay Valley as well as the south flank, along the Corral FSR, near the Cross River.

“Crews are continuing to mop up on the west flank of the fire. Mop up involves establishing water delivery to the edge of the fire, hosing down areas of heat or flame and using hand tools to break up burning materials.

“On the east flank of the fire crews are establishing water delivery through hose and pump systems in order to action the fire. Helicopters have been bucketing to support ground crews by providing water to cool areas of increased fire behaviour. This support will continue as required in the coming days.

“Crews are also securing safe access to the worksite by assessing and falling any burnt trees that pose a threat to workers.

Planned ignition, which is an essential and effective tactic to help contain large wildfires, may be used in the coming days. This strategy helps limit the spread of the fire by removing available fuel ahead of the wildfire and bringing it to control lines in a low intensity manner where crews and aircraft can safely suppress the fires edge. Planning is underway for an ignition operation on the west flank of the fire to limit the spread of the fire west into the Kootenay Valley.

“Structure protection is set up on hunting cabin and outbuildings near the edge of the fire. This fire is located in a remote area and is not impacting other structures at this time.

“This fire is burning in areas of steep, cliffy terrain, making direct attack challenging. Ground crews need a safe, defendable space to carry out suppression activities. This may mean that in order to ensure the safety of those working on the fireline, crews will be indirectly attacking the fire using ignition and other tactics when fire behaviour prevents them from working directly on the fire’s edge,” BCWS reported.

The Cummings Creek wildfire, about five kilometres west of Sparwood is about 52./6 ha.

“The fire has backed down into the wetter areas around the Cummings Creek and growth in the north and easterly directions has slowed, which has allowed the opportunity for crews to safely work on building limited access/egress routes,” BCWS reported August 17.

Connell Ridge wildfire, about 23 km south of Cranbrook is today an estimated 1,769 ha.

Discovered August 1, the lightning-caused fire is today being actioned by 73 firefighters backed by 13 helicopters, 19 pieces of heavy equipment and 12 additional operational personnel are assigned to this incident.

“In areas where the fire has already come to the guard, crews will be working on mop up operations,” BCWS said.

“On the southwest corner, crews will be going direct attack and extinguishing hotspots as they pop up. There are some steep terrain features in this area so ground crews are working in areas where it is safe to do so.

“Planning and implementation of small-scale ignition operations remains on going. These tactics will be utilized as needed when weather and site conditions are favourable and will support crews in securing containment lines by removing the unburnt fuel between the free burning fires edge and the established guard.

“Three small scale planned ignitions occurred yesterday along the south flank and southeast corner of the fire today. A combination of aerial and hand ignition tactics were successful in further securing containment lines. Crews will be mopping up in these areas today and working to establish a 50ft blackline around each of the areas.

“Plans are being developed for a small scale ignition on the southwest corner along a ridge line. The north flank and northwest corner of the fire is displaying minimal fire activity,” BCWS stated.

“The fire breached the containment lines on the southeast flank early in the day on Sunday August 14. This added an additional 30 hectares to the fire size. Crews and heavy equipment have established guard around the perimeter of the slop-over.

“Helicopters continue to provide bucketing support to the crews working on the southern portion of the fire throughout the day.”

And the Canada/U.S. shared Weasel Creek wildfire, 39 kilometres southeast of Baynes Lake, is 1,196 ha in B.C.

Discovered August 4, the fire today has 54 firefighters working on it, backed by 13 helicopters and seven pieces of heavy equipment.

Seven structure protection personnel and 12 additional operational personnel assigned to this incident.

“On August 17, fire activity increased in the afternoon on the northwestern portion of the fire where vigorous fire behaviour contributed to the fire growth moving west up the Couldrey drainage. This growth has not impacted the northeastern tip of the fire perimeter where the crews have been strengthening containment lines over the last few days,” BCWS reported.

“Yesterday morning airtankers were used to lay retardant lines along the ridgeline above the area where yesterday’s growth occurred. This helped support the crews as they worked to prevent the fire from spreading upslope in a northerly direction.

“Crews continue to focus in the Couldrey Creek area working to establish a 50ft black line along the entire northeast and eastern flanks of the incident to prevent growth towards the Flathead Valley.

“Heavy equipment has begun tightlining on the eastern portion of the fire perimeter, working from the fire perimeter to the Frozen Lake FSR. Heavy equipment has also begun constructing the contingency lines previously identified by line locators ahead of the fire perimeter, from Burnam Creek to Dally Creek. Crews working in this area will use hand ignition tactics to remove unburnt pockets of fuel to further secure the line.

“Planning and implementation of small-scale ignition operations remains on going. These tactics will be utilized as needed when weather and site conditions are favourable and will support crews in securing containment lines by removing the unburnt fuel between the free burning fires edge and the established guard.

“Structure protection personnel have completed triaging and assessment for the time being. Daily checks are being conducted to ensure the existing structure protection systems are working properly should they be needed,” BCWS explained.

BC Wildfire Service personnel will be assessing priority actions, objectives and values in advance of the expected fire growth in the Flathead area, and the structure protection specialist will be assessing the requirements for the area.

There are area restrictions in place for all the fires of note.

Two other regional fires remain out-of-control.

The Mount Evans fire, about 10 km southwest of St. Mary Lake, is 33.5 ha. The fire was ignited by lightning on August 8.

And the Stair Lakes fire, discovered July 31 at St. Mary’s Alpine Provincial Park, is today noted as being 44 ha.

Lead image: The smoke plume from the Mount Docking wildfire. BCWS photo


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