The forest fire on Perry Ridge 4.5 kilometres west of Winlaw is 20 per cent contained with weather providing a reprieve, said Karlie Shaughnessy, fire information officer with the Southeast Fire Centre.
“Through out the night and this morning the fire has seen a total of nine millimeters of rain,” she said Friday morning. “Any precipitation on the fire is very welcome… We don’t put fires out, Mother Nature does.”
While rains help with fire suppression, it also makes the steep slopes slippery and unsafe for the 79 firefighters on the ground. They’re battling the blaze along with 30 support staff and three helicopters with the fire a province priority.
“The crews are using hand tools today and establishing water sources. They’re starting to mop up certain flanks of the fire,” said Shaughnessy. “They’re working on building a fuel-free hand-guard area and when they have that established, they start to hose down the fire and mop it up or make sure that the parts that are out aren’t smoking.”
The fire originally started on July 24 and now, with the smoke somewhat cleared, officials were able to get a more accurate measure of its size which is 64.5 hectares. Early this week, estimations had it as 97 hectares.
“They are making progress,” Shaughnessy said.
Along with the unsettled weather that helps forest fire fighting comes lightning which can cause new starts.
“It all depends on how much precipitation is seen with the thunder showers. In some instances the lightening can occur without any precipitation and that can start forest fires,” said the information officer.
Since yesterday, throughout the whole Southeast Fire Centre, there were nine lightning caused fires. They all are considered spot fires at less than one hectare in size.
Cooler temperatures and rains have also reduced the fire danger rating from extreme to high or moderate. This puts off any campfire ban that was being considered. Bans exist in the Coastal Fire Centre as well as the Kamloops Fire Centre.
“We are fairly lucky,” said Shaughnessy.
This could all change as fire officials monitor weather daily as well as how careful people are with their campfires over the long weekend.
“We’re looking at how well the public is being compliant — if they’re leaving their fires unattended or if we have them escaping and causing wildfires, we take that into consideration,” she said. “Over the long weekend we’re advising people just to be really careful with their campfires. Even though we’ve seen a bit of precipitation, it doesn’t mean the danger has reduced significantly.”
Campfires are permitted at half a metre high and wide.