An aerial view of the current wildfire situation around Williams Lake paints a worrisome picture.
Hundreds, if not thousands of hot spots smolder throughout green forests still untouched by flames around the White Lake fire, situated east of the Fraser River and just north of Williams Lake, the Wildwood fire, which stretches out north to the shores of Forest Lake, and the Spokin Lake fire, just south and east of Dugan Lake.
Thousands of hectares of forests have already been claimed by the fires; according to the latest update provided by the Cariboo Fire Centre the White Lake fire (east) is estimated to be 4,028 hectares, the Wildwood fire is estimated at 12,987 and the Spokin Lake is estimated at 3,731 hectares.
“We are gaining ground every day,” said Bill Payne, BC Wildfire Services operation section chief for the Central Cariboo Complex.
“It’s slow going because it’s so dry out there and there is a lack of resources because there are so many fires across the province.”
As officials have said, Williams Lake is almost completely surrounded by the uncontained fires.
And it is clear from the air just how close communities such as 150 Mile House and Wildwood came to being lost to the fires, and just how precarious the situation still is. The White Lake fire (east) appears to be headed east and only about five kilometres from Wildwood.
“This is just the beginning of the fire season. It’s going to be a long haul,” Payne said.
The top priority on the Wildwood fire is to protect life and homes by continuing to build machine guard around the fire and securing the perimeter. Crews continued to work with air support to douse hot spots as they pop up.
The Spokin Lake fire is of great concern for crews because it is burning hot in several areas. On Friday helicopters, including the heavy-lifting KMAX, bucketed water on several hot spots through the afternoon.
Crews were able to conduct a successful controlled burn on a section of the south east flank of the Spokin Lake fire on July 24, with the goal of the burn to remove fuels inside the perimeter guard and create a safe space for crews to work in.
Several pieces of heavy equipment were also working on shoring up guards Friday to contain the Spokin Lake fire.
White Lake fire (east) also remained active on Friday, with helicopters and equipment working to establish guard lines to create a fuel break, while also working to protect homes, structures and infrastructure. Several hot spots could be seen on the White Lake fire as well.
Lindsay Marks, fire information officer, said residents returning to Williams Lake should be aware of the large, uncontained fires close by and know that a change of weather and winds could create erratic fire behaviour.
The BC Wildfire Service is also requesting the public stay away from the areas where there are active fires for their own safety and for the safety of crews.
The Williams Lake Tribune would like to thank the BC Wildfire Service and Cariboo Fire Centre for the aerial tour.