A wildfire in the Lamb Creek area continues to burn on the west side of Moyie Lake. Trevor Crawley photo

Fire conditions won’t change anytime soon

BC Wildfire Service crews grappling with large-scale fires in the East Kootenay

Wildfires continue to burn in the East Kootenay as BC Wildfire Service crews take action on a few large blazes burning in the Moyie, St. Mary River and Koocanusa regions.

The fires have touched off evacuation orders and alerts in all three areas, as affected residents are being sent to Cranbrook to register at an Emergency Reception Centre at the curling arena. So far, over 800 people have registered with the centre, according to the RDEK.

The hot weather temperatures aren’t helping fire conditions, however, the smoke coverage is playing a somewhat helpful role, according to Mike McCulley, a Fire Information officer with the BCWS.

“Things that are helping us out on all the fires, interestingly, is the smoky conditions,” he said. “When we have smoke like this, the ground temperature stays pretty cool, which helps keep the fire behaviour down. So any time we get where the smoke burns off, temperatures will jump almost 10 degrees and the fire behaviour will pick up.

“…Right now this high pressure system that’s over our portion of the fire zone is sitting pretty tight over top of us and that’s going to keep things fairly hot and dry for the next three to four days at least.”

McCulley adds that there aren’t any large scale winds forecasted this week, which should hopefully help stem the growth of the fires.

“We’ll see some local winds, but looking outwards a bit to Friday/Saturday, there is a system that is going to move through the area and what we don’t know right now is if it’s going to bring wind, rain, lightning all of the above or none of the above,” said McCulley.

A backcountry closure in the Rocky Mountain Natural Resource District was announced last week to mitigate and prevent wildfires given that conditions are extremely dry.

The Lamb Creek fire out at Moyie is estimated at 1,500 hectares and is highly visible from Highway 3/95. As of Tuesday afternoon, there are 57 firefighters, 14 pieces of heavy equipment and one helicopters working on it.

An evacuation order was issued on last week that eventually expanded to cover the entire Moyie area and Munroe Lake, that includes roughly 400 properties.

RCMP warns that drivers who stop along the highway shoulder between Moyie Lake Provincial Park and Braunagel Road to take photographs of the fire will be ticketed.

The St. Mary’s River fire is 76 per cent contained after sparking up last week to 400 hectares, forcing an evacuation order, that has since been downgraded to an evacuation alert, for 36 homes in the Aqam community. Additionally, over 100 properties in the Fort Steele/St. Marys also remains under an evacuation alert.

Fire crews with the BCWS and the City of Cranbrook, along with local residents and volunteers, responded immediately and a crew of 35 personnel currently remain on site.

Down at the Canada-US border, the Linklater fire on the west side of Lake Koocanusa has grown to 833 hectares on the Canadian side and 7,300 hectares is burning on the US side.

On Sunday, the RDEK issued an evacuation order for 18 properties on the west side of the lake and an evacuation alert on the east side for 135 properties, citing fears of ash and debris being cast by the wind over long distances.

The BCWS is coordinating with the Americans for firefighting suppression and have 19 firefighters, nine pieces of heavy equipment and one helicopter working in response.

A remote fire in the White River area 37 kilometres north east of Canal Flats also forced an evacuation order for four properties in the White Swan Provincial Park area, including the provincial park campgrounds.

The White River fire is currently grown up to 12,000 hectares after three local wildfires merged into one fire event.

While not classified as a fire of note, a 2,700-hectare blaze is burning around the Quinn Creek area outside Top of the World provincial park. It is burning remotely and not threatening any communities or structures, however, the smoke can be highly visible from the Wildhorse drainage.

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