An Erickson air crane sucks up water from the Slocan River on Saturday to help battle the Slocan Park wildfire.

An Erickson air crane sucks up water from the Slocan River on Saturday to help battle the Slocan Park wildfire.

Controlled burn planned on Slocan Park fire

Crews battling the forest fire above Slocan Park will fight fire with fire today, using controlled burns to stabilize their lines.

Crews battling the forest fire above Slocan Park will fight fire with fire today, using controlled burns to stabilize their lines.

Information officer Julie Castonguay said the teardrop-shaped fire has three flanks, the lowest of which, closest to the community, has been surrounded by a hose line.

“Today, weather permitting, they will be doing a little bit of controlled burn to bring the fire snug to their line,” she said. “It will straighten their control line.”

Castonguay said “small fingers” of unburned timbers, possibly 50 meters long, would be burned off, which will result in increased smoke and potential flames, but the stressed that the community shouldn’t be concerned: “It’s fine, totally planned. There will be a lot of action, but all controlled.”

In addition, another 30 firefighters are being added to the 60 who are already on the hillside, working the fire’s periphery.

Castonguay said since the bottom has been secured or is being worked on, they will now focus on the upper segment, closer to the ridge line.

Nine helipads have now been completed, meaning crews no longer have to hike in 2 km to access the fire, which “helps tremendously,” Castonguay said.

All efforts are by hand, with no heavy machinery.

The fire is still listed as 120 hectares with no containment.

“It’s pretty much the same size, burning itself off with minor changes on the edges, but nothing major,” said Castonguay, who reported “slow but positive progress.”

A change in the weather today may or may not help things, she added.

“Less heat is good, but they’re talking about thunderstorms, which could bring wind, so it’s a toss-up.”

An evacuation alert issued a week ago remains in effect for 47 homes.

Caution urged

Nelson’s fire chief issued a statement Tuesday asking residents to be cautious to reduce the risk of human-caused fires and avoid compounding the work of provincial firefighters and local fire departments.

“We have been fortunate within the municipal boundaries and fire protection areas that the lightning storms of the past week have not caused us immediate problems,” Simon Grypma said.

“At this point what we really need to avoid is an accidental fire start within our community that could quickly spread and threaten the forest around us.”

Grypma said that although provincial wildfire resources are running at maximum capacity, they do have mutual aid agreements with regional district fire departments, “but prevention is by far a preferable option.”

He urged residents to respect the complete fire ban issued last week, to dispose of cigarette butts carefully — noting potted plants contain a mix of soil and combustible peat moss — and to take care while operating and fueling equipment by keeping a fire extinguisher and shovel handy along with spark arrestors.