Members of the Canadian military arrived in the South Cariboo this week to provide additional help in fighting fires in the 100 Mile Northeast Complex, which includes the Flat Lake and Canim Lake blazes.
The move comes as a handful of evacuation alerts were lifted in the South Cariboo, including properties in the west of Canim Lake, which has been on evacuation alert for close to a month. That area was given the all-clear Tuesday, with the 3,026-hectare blaze now listed as “being held” by BC Wildfire Service. The Cariboo Regional District also rescinded the alert for Mahood Lake.
“For our complex, there’s roughly about 40 (military) personnel out there every day, on the ground with the fires helping with mop-up and patrol,” wildfire information officer Nicole Bonnett said.
Hundreds of parcels in the Green Lake, Horse Lake and Sheridan Lake region that were placed on alert due to the Flat Lake fire southwest of 100 Mile House last month were also cleared this week. The Thompson-Nicola Regional District rescinded alerts for 650 properties in the South Green Lake area on Monday, as well as an alert for 199 properties near 70 Mile and the Chasm.
However, unpredictable winds caused by a storm passing through resulted in increased fire activity on the Flat Lake fire’s north flank, including a few hot spots beyond the fireguard, prompting the CRD to issue a new evacuation alert for portions of 108 Mile Ranch, 105 Mile and 103 Mile on the west side of Highway 97. That alert was still in effect as of press time Wednesday, along with alerts for 100 Mile House and parts of Green Lake and Horse Lake. An evacuation order for properties in the Flat Lake area also remains in place.
Bonnett said the cooler weather, including a brief reprieve on the weekend with periods of rainfall, played a big factor this past week.
“We had that little bit of precipitation, which was helpful in the moment, as it put a lot of moisture back into the ground but it was pretty minimal,” Bonnett said. “It sounds like we’re supposed to be moving back into another fairly warm and dry stretch, so the fuels will start to dry out more and fire activity is likely to increase.”
Wildfire crews have been focusing on controlled burns on the Flat Lake fire, most recently measured at 53,211 hectares in size, and planned ignitions will be “ongoing,” according to a BCWS update this week.
“Planned ignitions are an essential and effective tactic that the BC Wildfire Service uses to help contain very large wildfires,” the update states. “The objective of the planned ignition is to remove unburned fuels between the fire perimeter and pre-determined control lines such as roads and machine guards.”
Poor visibility due to heavy smoke in the area resulted in planned ignitions being postponed over the weekend. However, as conditions improved early in the week, controlled burns went ahead when possible.
Overall, Bonnett said that containment efforts have been going well.
“The crews have been making really good progress, particularly along the east flank, the one that parallels the highway, and along the southeast into the south along Meadow Lake Road and the 3900 Road where we’ve been doing the planned ignitions,” she said.
The Young Lake fire, another fire of note 35 kilometres southeast of 70 Mile House, has grown to 6,937 hectares but also received some precipitation this week that aided in containment efforts.
Containment lines have been established and planning is underway for more planned ignitions on the northeastern and eastern flank.
An evacuation order issued by the TNRD for 101 properties in the Bonaparte Plateau region was downgraded to an alert Monday. One property on Eagan-Bonaparte Lake FSR and approximately 50 parcels in the Copper Desert Country area remain on order due to the Young Lake fire.
The 454-hectare Chasm fire that was discovered July 13 is now listed as “under control” and is no longer classified as a fire of note.