Firefighters working the Sitkum/Duhamel fire on the North Shore of Kootenay Lake enjoyed cooler temperatures but little rain over the weekend.
The fire, which stands at 450 hectares, is now considered 30 per cent contained, according to BC Wildfire Service information officer Noelle Kekula.
One hundred 20 firefighters are on the line, joined by 23 support staff, six pieces of heavy equipment and four helicopters. An evacuation alert remains in effect for about 350 homes nine days after it was issued.
Kekula said it will not be lifted until they can ensure the fire won’t come down either the Duhamel or Sitkum side. “Once we have those confidence levels, we will recommend lifting the alert,” she said. The fire has been “slowly creeping” down the mountain as expected.
Firefighters are still working on the fire’s south flank, closest to homes, and moving toward the west flank on the Duhamel side.
Higher relative humidity levels slowed their opportunity to conduct burnouts, although they did have a window when it warmed up yesterday, Kekula said. Only minimal amounts of rain fell over the weekend, but temperatures dropped thanks to a low pressure system.
Kekula said progress has been slow given the steep terrain and sensitivities involved. “We’ve got to handle this one really well with good strategies to protect all the resources below us,” she said. “We continue with our controlled burn objectives and keep plugging away.”
Meanwhile, an evacuation alert for about 35 residents south of Silverton remains in effect, but the fire two kilometers south of the village, near the base of Mt. Aylwin, is now 10 per cent contained.
Information officer Jordan Turner said the eight-hectare fire showed no sign of overnight growth. Twenty firefighters are working on the blaze, and have built a heli-pad in the area for better access.
Crews are continuing suppression efforts on the bottom west flank — directly fighting the fire instead of building a guard.
The fire received a small amount of rain Sunday and temperatures are expected to remain cooler today, although the fire danger is still high.
The fire was one of 46 in the Southeast Fire Centre started overnight Friday by lightning. “A few popped up that would have been quite visible,” Turner said.
One near China Creek is about 0.8 of a hectare. There are also four fires near Renata on Lower Arrow Lake. One is in mop-up, another is a spot fire, and a third is about 0.2 of a hectare. Crews are working on it today.
Turner said there have between 253 fires in their jurisdiction so far this year, compared to 36 at the same time last year. “We had more fire starts in a 24-hour period than we had in the first few months of the fire season last year,” he said.
That’s why a campfire ban is in place, he added: they need to focus all of their resources on naturally-occurring fires.
If you see a wildfire or any open burning violations, you can call 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on a cell phone.