An Incident Management Team is set to take command Wednesday of wildfire efforts in 100 Mile House, where two fires of note – a 650-hectare blaze near Deka Lake and a 582-ha fire south of Canim Lake – continue to burn.
The team, comprised of firefighters from across B.C, will focus on all the fires north of Highway 24 and east of Highway 97 – an area dubbed “the 100 Mile northeast complex,” the team’s information officer Erin Bull said. As of Wednesday morning, there were 54 wildfires burning in the Cariboo – 41 of those in the 100 Mile zone. Of those, 28 are in the northwest complex.
“Up until this point the personnel in the 100 Mile Zone have been managing all the fires throughout 100 Mile, which is quite a lot,” Bull said. “This will take some of the pressure off.”
A fire camp will be set up outside the South Cariboo Rec Centre to provide food, showers and accommodation for the IMT, which includes an incident commander, and personnel for operations, information and logistics and eight support staff as well as additional firefighters. The team will prioritize resources for the specific fire area and access additional resources when needed.
However, Bull noted getting more firefighters and equipment will depend on what’s happening in the rest of B.C., which is also “stretched a bit thin for resources.”
More firefighters were expected to arrive in 100 Mile House Wednesday although Bull didn’t have specific numbers at press time. About 100 firefighters, with 20 pieces of equipment had also arrived last weekend to help support local fire departments.
Bull said BCWS planned to continue assessing the Canim Lake wildfire Wednesday, with a view to getting access to the blaze, which is situated in steep terrain. As of Wednesday morning, there was no notable change in the fire although there were several reports of increased smoke in the area, she said.
“Canim Lake is still a very challenging area,” she said. “We continue to have eyes on it from the air. The main objective is to work on gaining access to that fire.”
An evacuation alert remains in effect for Canim Lake and Canim Lake Band as well as Eagle Creek Road, Hawkins Lake, Ruth Lake and a section of Forest Grove.
Meanwhile, 20 firefighters and equipment remained on site of the Deka Lake fire Wednesday, following a successful controlled burn Monday. Deka Lake and District Volunteer Fire Chief Al Boyce Tuesday credited local firefighters and first responders, as well as those from the BCWS for helping to contain the fire.
No structures have been lost to date, roadblocks are in place, and patrols are maintaining security while the evacuation order remains in effect, he said. Forty firefighters, two helicopters and five pieces of heavy equipment remained on scene, as of Wednesday morning.
“The controlled burn removed available fuel between the fire’s edge and the fuel-free guard. This strategy slows down and helps limit the spread of the wildfire by decreasing the amount of fire perimeter that must be managed by BCWS staff,” he said. “I want our residents to rest assured that their community is still here.”
Nearly 700 properties in Deka Lake, as well as 14 along Judson Road have been under evacuation order since July 1. An evacuation alert has been issued for 153 properties in the Sulphurous Lake area.
The two fires are among four “fires of note” in the Cariboo Region, including which also include blazes in the Churn Creek Protected Area and north of Big Stick Lake. The Si Lake fire was expected to be removed as a fire of note Wednesday as it is now considered to be under control – one of 11 fires in the South Cariboo with that classification. The Cariboo Regional District also rescinded an alert for that fire Tuesday.
Fires of note refer to all fires that are under evacuation order or alert, BCWS information officer Jessica Mack said. “Anytime we have an alert in place we want to have a place where people can find information on that fire. Or anytime we have a lot of interest from the public.”
Cariboo Regional District Chair Margo Wagner said the Incident Management Team will help take a load of stress of the BCWS, while allowing them to bring in equipment from outside the region. This will allow the local fire departments to keep their equipment so it’s available when needed.
She credited local fire departments for their work not only on Deka but on all the fires popping up across the region.
“Cariboo firefighters have hard-won experience battling wildfires from previous years,” she said. “That expertise is paying dividends across the region in 2021. Our local first responders and all those answering the call from other parts of the province are doing an incredible job under challenging circumstances.”
Lone Butte Fire Chief John Grieve said his crew is feeling “relieved to say the least” following several days of intense work battling local fires around the Lone Butte and Horse Lake communities.
Since wildfires began popping up in the South Cariboo last Wednesday, the LBFD has been integral in assisting BC Wildfire Service on a fire in the 6300-block of Horse Lake Road, and an earlier fire near the butte.
“As a community, we’ve done really well and at this point, the worst is behind us from what I can see,” Grieve said Monday, noting his crew of around 16 members was enjoying a much-needed day of rest.
The support from the community – by way of thank-you signs and food delivered to the fire hall – has been appreciated by those hard at work, Grieve said. “We’ve had a great outpouring of support, and we are so grateful and thankful,” he said. “It’s meant a huge deal to our guys.”