While the skies are smokey in Williams Lake Saturday morning the Puntzi Lake fire camp saw its first sun rise and blue skies in days said fire information officer Colette Fauchon. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo.

Puntzi Lake fire information officer provides update

While the smoke and ash are thick in Williams Lake Saturday morning it’s clear out west at the Puntzi Lake fire camp says fire information officer Colette Fauchon as she gives an update on fires in the West Chilcotin.

Crews at the Puntzi Lake Camp saw their first sunrise in days on Saturday morning, fire information officer Colette Fauchon told the Tribune.

“Obviously there is still smoke in the air but we have some blue sky so obviously everybody is pretty happy about that,” Fauchon said. “It’s been long dark hours as you know.”

The clearer skies will make it possible for crews to go in and assess where the fires have grown because of Friday’s high winds and where they have to build more fire guard.

“It is good for us to have better visibility today because there have been quite a few days and some hours in some days when we have not been able to fly because of poor visibility,” Fauchon said.

There has been growth on the Kleena Kleene, Colwell Lake, Arc Mountain, Chezacut and Tautri wildfires because of the winds, she added.

“We are predicting possibly that the Tautri and Chezacut fires may join. We are expecting more aggressive winds this weekend because there is a weather change coming through.”

The weather will move from the high ridge it’s been sitting in for more than a week and break down during the weekend into Sunday, resulting in much cooler temperatures and possibly some rain, but it does not look like the rain is going to be very significant, Fauchon explained.

“Unfortunately the rain is not going to help us very much but the cooler temperatures may.”

Presently there are fire camps at Puntzi Lake, Riske Creek and the BC Wildfire service is looking at setting up another camp somewhere north of the Kleena Kleene wildfire but the exact location has not been determined yet.

Echoing the message of other fire information officers covering the region, Fauchon said it is good for the public to know the fires are here for the longhaul.

“We are not seeing any aggressive rain events in the near or long-term forecast. It in these high heat and dry conditions that you cannot put them out and they burn into the ground. Fire will burn roots and then it will smoulder and on a windy day they will pop up. That will go on until the snow flies and even some fires smoulder over winter depending on where they are. We don’t want to scare people but we want people to know the facts and the reality of fire behaviour.”

Crews will continue to do mop-up for months after the aggressive wildfire season dwindles.

Additionally, for many years going forward rehabilitation of the land will have to be done by the the forest service and contractors that requires wildfire danger tree falling and erosion control because if there are heavy rain events on a burned off mountainsides they can cause flash flooding, she said, noting work will also be needed to repair roads, bridges and culverts.

In the next few days, the public can expect the size of the wildfires in the west to increase, Fauchon said, noting people can check www.bcwildfire.ca website for more information or if they see a fire call *5555.

On the evening of Friday, Aug. 11 the BC Wildfire Service posted the following updates on the fires west of the Fraser River.

Chezacut Fire

Estimated to be 17,264 hectares, the Chezacut wildfire has 29 firefighters, 19 pieces of equipment, four helicopters and support staff working on it.

Containment progress has been made along the southern and western lines by fire crews. This has been actioned by strengthening the guards and localizing burn-out operations.

Completion of a fire guard from 100 Road to 4600 Road and execution of hand ignition burnouts on the southeast flank are also planned. Ground and helicopter patrol fire assessments continue as much as smoky conditions will allow.

Kleena Kleene Fire

An estimated 7,146 ha, the Kleena Kleene fire has 46 firefighters, 19 pieces of equipment, six helicopters — shared between Kleena Kleene and Colwell Lake.

To protect the Kleena Kleene community and Highway 20 corridor our fire crews continue to provide fire suppression activities to the southwest.

Fire containment efforts such as hand ignition burnouts and locating potential water sources for fire fighting efforts also continue.

Colwell Lake Fire

Estimated at 4,922 ha the Colwell Lake fire is being actioned by 13 personnel, a helicopter and equipment.

This fire is within the proximity of the Kleena Kleene fire. Fire crews are working in tandem with the Kleena Kleene fire crews sharing resources such as firefighters, helicopters and heavy equipment to continue fire suppression efforts. This also provides support to the Kleena Kleene community and Highway 20.

Arc Mountain Fire

Three firefighters, five pieces of equipment and one helicopter are working on the Arc Mountain fire estimated to be 6,751 ha. in size. Firefighters and heavy equipment started building a containment line along P Road to keep the fire to the east.

Precipice Creek Stillwater Lake/Hotnarko

This wildfire is estimated to be 6,094 ha and has 46 firefighters, nine helicopters and 12 pieces of heavy equipment at the site.

There are an additional 13 single resources, four danger tree assessors/fallers, one truck for water hauling, a lowbed and support staff working on the fire.

The Tribune has not connected with the fire information officer at Riske Creek, however in her Friday, Aug. 11 report, fire information officer Erin Catherall provided the following information.

Hanceville-Riske Creek Fire

Now estimated to be 179,768 ha in size, the Hanceville-Riske Creek fire has resources that include 248 firefighters, 70 pieces of heavy equipment, 14 helicopters, an incident management team and support staff.

Crews continue to patrol and action hot spots identified on the eastern side after an infrared aerial scan was completed two days ago.

Crews are also patrolling for hot spots along the 2400 Road after the recent increase in fire activity in the area. The 2400 Road continues to act as a guard and is holding the fire at this time.

Firefighters also plan on building another guard on the west side of Fletcher Lake.

Heavy equipment completed half of the 3100 Road contingency line to the south of the fire and continues to work on the contingency line on the Stack Valley Road towards the south.

Crews are continuing to patrol and mop up the 700 Road and patrol cat guards along the road. Crews are finished up the last section of guard along the eastern flank and are patrolling the area.

Crews have been working on mopping up between Horse Road and Cottonwood Dam in the north. Burn out operations are planned, if weather conditions allow it, between the 2400 Road and a built contingency line to the south of the fire. Firefighter safety, lives and property continues to be the number one priority for the BC Wildfire Service.

White Lake Fire West

Approximately 13,292 hectares in size, the White Lake Fire West is estimated to be 40 per cent contained.

There are 90 firefighters, 16 pieces of heavy equipment, helicopters, an incident management team and support staff assigned to the fire.

Crews reported the fire containment lines are still maintaining the boundary. There has been some fire activity on the western side of the fire and hot spots are being actioned. Equipment was working on the north-west line to reinforce the guard.

People in and around Williams Lake saw ash falling from the sky overnight Friday. Here Tribune reporter Gaiel Farrar interviews Maria Smith about the ash in McLeese Lake where the annual Metis Jamboree is taking place in the community hall now through Sunday.

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