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Controlled burns could add more smoke in the Cariboo Fire Centre

The public can expect to see extra smoke in the Cariboo Fire Centre region as BC Wildfire crews hope to conduct some controlled burns today.
Monica Lamb-Yorski photo. BC Wildfire firefighter Kailey Cochrane from Burns Lake, packs up food for her crew early Wednesday in Williams Lake.

The public can expect to see extra smoke in the Cariboo Fire Centre region as BC Wildfire crews hope to conduct some controlled burns today.

In its latest update from the BC Wildfire service there are 10 fires of note in the Cariboo Fire Centre, including the White Lake fire northwest of Williams Lake that is estimated to be 2,800 ha.

It is 60 per cent contained.

“The objective today is to continue to construct control lines,” said fire information officer Noelle Kekula of efforts being extended on the White Lake fire. “If weather conditions permit, a controlled burn may be conducted today, which will produce additional smoke for a period of time.”

The other ones closest to Williams Lake and into the Chilcotin are the 150 Mile House, Wildwood/Williams Lake Airport, Spokin Lake Road, West Fraser Road Complex, Soda Creek, Hanceville Fires, Kleena Kleene Complex and the Castle Rock/Twan Lake Complex.

The 150 Mile House Fire, estimated to be 2,600 ha, is 50 per cent contained.

BC Wildfire Service crews will conduct a controlled burnoff operation on the south side of the 150 Mile House fire today (July 12, 2017) to create a clear and safer perimeter where ground crews can work.

This controlled burn will cover about 50 hectares above White Road and west of Fox Mountain, and will increase the amount of smoke in the area. A significant smoke column is expected to be visible for the duration of the burn today. This burnoff will be supported by aircraft during and following the operation.

On Wednesday, the 150 Mile House fire has 115 firefighting personnel on site with 22 pieces of equipment, air support and additional logistics staff, Kekula said.

Numerous fires in the Hanceville area, located approx. 60 kilometers southwest of Williams Lake, remained zero contained as of Tuesday afternoon.

This incident involves numerous fires over a large area of approximately 25 kilometres by 40 kilometres. An accurate size estimate is difficult to ascertain due to poor visibility, but at this time the size is estimated to be 10,000 hectares.

Tl’etinqox Chief Joe Alphonse whose community is close to the Hanceville area fires said early Wednesday “everything is looking good.”

Alphonse’s community refused to evacuate and Alphonse said if they had evacuated he believed they would have already lost some homes.

“We might still lose some, but our chances are looking better every day that we might not lose any at all.”

They had been without power for days, but with BC Hydro and Allteck crews working in the area Tuesday, the power was restored.

In the latest BC Wildfire information, the Soda Creek Fire, 25 kilometers northwest of Williams Lake was an estimated 100 ha and was 25 per cent contained.

Resources on scene are 37 firefighters, seven pieces of heavy equipment and air support.

The Spokin Lake fire, 20 km east of Williams Lake, estimated at 460 ha was 75 per cent contained with crews making progress with construction of containment lines.

West Fraser Road Complex fire on the west side of Highway 97, 25 km southwest of Quesnel, did not have any details available.

While the Wildwood Fire located near the Williams Lake Airport is still an estimated 2,500 ha and is 40 per cent contained.

As of Wednesday morning there were 82 firefighters, 17 pieces of equipment, line locators and support staff assisting.

The Kleena Kleene Complex fire, west of Highway 20 primarily along the Klinaklini River, is located approximately 200 km west of Williams Lake.

It was discovered on Friday, July 7, but the BC Wildfire Service had no information in its update as of Tuesday, July 11.

However, family nurse practitioner Patrice Gordon who lives and works in the Chilcotin told the Tribune Wednesday morning from Tatla Lake that the community is doing what it can for itself.

She had just got word the Ministry of Forests had connected with the local West Chilcotin Search and Rescue group who are heading up the fire protection of homes in the Kleena Kleene fire, helping with game plans and “hopefully some good equipment.”

“Very good news!” Gordon said. “I am so amazed at how people are rising to this challenge. We have people with every type of expertise offering it eagerly — heavy equipment operators, mental health counsellors, internet specialists, helicopter pilots, cooks, radio geeks … everyone is out there saying ‘what can we do to help?”

Tatla Lake is the small little community that could, she said, adding “it’s heart-warming.”

There is such devastation along Highway 97 where the population is so much more dense so people understand that there has been little attention to the situation along Highway 20, she added.

“How fortunate we are to have such a willing, engaged and talented community.”

Gordon, who is well-known for her work with the Canadian Red Cross in Nepal and Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis, said this experience is much like her experiences overseas with a couple of small exceptions.

“Everyone speaks English and it’s got the added dimension of being family and friends and our own homes that are in the midst of it.”

Local Cariboo Fire Centre firefighter Anne Butters was picking up food for her crew from the grocery store early Wednesday in Williams Lake.

Butters was on her way to the fire centre to learn where she will be deployed next.

“I was on the Spokin Lake Road Fire right away,” she added.

Last Monday crews began setting up a camp at the Cariboo Fire Centre for firefighters, which Burns Lake BC Wildfire firefighter Kailey Cochrane said Wednesday will make things easier.

“That way the food can be prepared up at the camp,” Cochrane said as she placed grocery bags filled with sandwiches into a truck.

The camp is to feed and house fire crews effectively and efficiently, given the limited capacity in Williams Lake, Kekula said.

”The BCWS is cognizant of the additional pressure to feed and house a large group of people arriving in the area to work on these wildfires. The BWS focus is to ensure that our crews are well fed and rested while working.”

Kekula said the BCWS would like to thank the community for all of their continued support during this time.

Monica Lamb-Yorski photo. A camp has been set up to accommodate extra firefighters deployed to the Cariboo Fire Centre near the Williams Lake Airport. Here crews begin setting it up on Monday afternoon.
Photo submitted. Burnt out area two kilometres from Spokin Lake Road, east of Williams Lake.

Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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