Crews working on the province’s largest wildfire are being able to get closer to the fire Monday than previously because of changing wind directions, said fire information officer Donna MacPherson.
Responsible for sharing information about the north part of the Plateau fire, which is burning 60 kilometres northwest of Williams Lake, MacPherson said the fire is now an estimated 493,000 hectares.
Two weekends ago after 19 fires merged, including the Chezacut, Tautri, Bishop’s Bluff, Baezaeko, Wentworth Creek and Arc Mountain fires, the BC Wildfire Service renamed it the Plateau Fire and confirmed a few days later that it is the largest fire in B.C.’s history.
Winds are going to be blowing out of the north to northeast and then will be shifting in the afternoon to blowing out of the east, MacPherson said from Sylvia’s Cafe fire camp west of Quesnel.
“On the eastern side of the fire, the wind will blow the fire away from Nazko and back onto the part that’s already burnt and that will allow the crews to work very close to the fire perimeter,” she said. “The crews will work on mopping it up and removing fuels along the edge of the fire which they have not been able to do in the last little while.”
Crews will work to maintain control lines on the western side of the fire that are near Kluskus and to protect timber values in the area, MacPherson said.
“On that side the fire is going to be pushed by the wind toward new fuels.”
In the Titetown area the structural protection unit has retrieved sprinklers and other equipment from homes, now that the area has been considered safe for residents to return home.
The Cariboo Regional District changed the evacuation order to an alert on Sunday for the Batnuni Lake area northeast of Nazko.
Now that people have moved back home, there is a tendency to want to drive toward the fire to have a look, MacPerson said as she urged the public to stay away and keep the air and land space clear.
“Unfortunately we found some people within the fire perimeter yesterday, which they are not allowed into as it is still an alert area put on by local government,” she said. “Basically, if we see anybody we have to stop all of our aerial operations until we know that people have left the area safely.”
As of Monday, the evacuation order remains in place for the Kluskus, Blackwater, Clisbako, Nazko area and CRD westerly boundary to west of Batnuni Lake area.
There was increased fire activity seen Sunday in the southeastern area of the Plateau South fire.
Fire information officer Rachel Witt said the biggest concern at the Puntzi camp Monday is the directional shift in winds and temperatures that have been climbing over the past couple of days.
“They are expected to keep climbing at least today and tomorrow,” she said. “It just doesn’t seem like we are going to be getting any significant rainfall in the short-term forecast, which is concerning.”
Some areas of the Plateau Fire haven’t had any precipitation in weeks, she added.
“The winds began to change last night and we did see some increase in fire behaviour across the southern edge, particularly in the southeast area of the fire.”
Airtankers and skimmers came to support ground crews and heavy equipment last night to try to reinforce containment lines set around the perimeter of that flank.
Crews worked all night in the southeast area of the fire to continue mop-up near the fire’s perimeter. Crews and helicopters are working right now on cooling that part down before the heat of the day.
“We were able to complete some scanning in the southwest area of the Plateau Fire over the past couple of days and crews are mopping up hotspots within the fire’s perimeter that the scans found,” Witt said, noting crews have adjusted their positioning and scheduling to ensure that they are prepared for any hotspots that flare up after the afternoon sun in the southwest”
Overall, in the past few days the fire has not grown significantly in size which is largely due to the joint dedication and effort between ground crews, heavy equipment and air support.
“We are preparing for an increase in fire activity due to the weather outlook and indirect tactics have helped reinforce guards around the southern flank. Although we are trying to be as prepared as we can, we will have to wait and see exactly how the winds shift and how high the temperatures reach in the next week.”
Presently there are 507 firefighters, 12 helicopters, 86 pieces of heavy equipment and support staff tasked on the Plateau fire.
Environment Canada is forecasting sun with highs of 28C for the Chilcotin on Monday and a mix of sun and cloud and highs of 31C Tuesday.