Watching Creek blaze now held; TNRD lifts evacuation alert

Watching wildfire now held

UPDATE: 5:29 p.m.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District has lifted an evacuation alert that was put in place due to the Watching Creek wildfire northwest of Kamloops.

The wildfire, estimated to be 270 hectares in size, was classified as being held on Tuesday morning. The BC Wildfire Service said the fire isn’t likely to spread beyond its containment lines due to suppression efforts undertaken by firefighting crews.

On 4 p.m. Tuesday, the TNRD gave the all-clear to an area located on the northwest edge of the Lac Du Bois Grasslands Protected Area and stretching east, including Pass Lake, McQueen Lake and Isobel Lake.

McQueen Lake Environmental Education Centre is located within that area, which was previously under evacuation alert.

A map of the area given the all-clear can be found on the TNRD website.

UPDATE: 11:10 a.m.

A 270-hectare wildfire burning northwest of Kamloops is not expected to grow any further in size, according to the BC Wildfire Service.

BCWS officials reclassified the Watching Creek wildfire on Tuesday morning to “being held.”

“The wildfire is not likely to spread beyond determined containment lines due to the suppression carried out by the BC Wildfire Service,” the agency said in an update posted online just after 10:30 a.m.

“Crews will continue to work within the fire perimeter to fully extinguish areas of heat and flame where needed.”

Firefighters are working on mop up on all flanks of the fire, meaning they are hosing down hot spots and using hand tools to break up burning and smouldering material.

Helicopters are also assisting with bucketing.

The Watching Creek fire, believed to have been caused by a lightning strike, was discovered on July 29. It is burning approximately nine kilometres north of Kamloops city limits at Tranquille. The blaze saw significant growth on Aug. 1, but has not grown since then.

ORIGINAL STORY: 10:08 a.m.

Crews working a 270-hectare wildfire burning northwest of Kamloops could see increased fire activity on Tuesday due to the hot and dry conditions in the forecast.

In an update posted online on Tuesday morning, the BC Wildfire Service said fire behaviour at the Watching Creek blaze remained low on Monday.

“The weather is expected to continue to be warm and dry today,” the update said. “There is potential for increased fire behaviour with the warming and drying trend.”

Environment Canada is calling for a high in Kamloops on Tuesday of 35 C with lots of sun.

The Watching Creek fire, believed to have been caused by a lightning strike, was discovered on July 29. It is burning approximately nine kilometres north of Kamloops city limits at Tranquille. The blaze saw significant growth on Aug. 1, but has not grown since then.

As of Tuesday, 78 firefighters and four helicopters are working the Watching Creek fire, aided by two pieces of heavy equipment.

Lightning in the forecast this week for the Okanagan

Lightning in the forecast

A weather system bringing subtropical moisture north into B.C. this week is bringing with it a chance of thunder and lightning at the peak of wildfire season.

Environment Canada is forecasting a 60 per cent chance of thunderstorms Wednesday and Thursday, starting Wednesday evening.

The B.C. Wildfire Service says it is watching the incoming system closely.

“That weather may come with some rain and some cooler temperatures… But we're also concerned that that may bring thunderstorms and with that, erratic winds and potentially lightning which could give us some new starts," said fire information officer Mikhail Elsay on Thursday.

The fire danger rating in the southern portion of the Kamloops Fire Centre is now at high, with pockets of extreme.

Nearly three-quarters of this year’s wildfires in B.C. have been caused by lightning.

B.C. Interior residents should be particularly vigilant about the potential for wildfires during lightning storms. You can report a wildfire by calling 1 800 663-5555 (or *5555 from a cellphone) or use the Report of Fire function on the BC Wildfire Service app, which also allows you to upload photos.

“Information from the public is crucial to the effectiveness of the BC Wildfire Service’s response,” said the provincial government in a recent news release. “Provide any information you can and expect to be asked details about the fire."

Cummings Creek wildfire continues to burn near Sparwood

Tough access to wildfire

The Cummings Creek wildfire continues to burn aggressively about five kilometres west of Sparwood.

According to the BC Wildfire Service, the 44-hectare fire was acting aggressively overnight on the eastern flank, burning in extremely steep and inoperable terrain that is unsafe for crews to work on.

The position of the wildfire, the direction in which it is burning, and smoky conditions has left crews with limited access to fight the fire.

A 20-person crew was working today on building access routes and contingency lines where it's considered safe to do so.

If smoke conditions allow, helicopter bucketing will occur on the northern flank of the fire, along Cummings Creek, to provide some cooling effects to the fire behaviour.

At this time, the community of Sparwood is not threatened.

The cause of the fire is suspected to be lightning, but that still has to be confirmed.

BC Wildfire: Keremeos Creek wildfire fight far from over, cooler temperatures and possible storms in forecast

Not time to drop guard

UPDATE: 3:20 p.m.

BC Wildfire Service says it is looking at a long battle against the Keremeos Creek wildfire, and even when evacuation orders are rescinded, residents will still be dealing with an active fire zone for some time.

Fire information officer Mikhail Elsay said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon that while significant progress through controlled burns and containment lines has been made in the past few days, now is not the time for anyone to drop their guard.

People on evacuation order should heed that, and those on evacuation alert — more than 1,000 to date — should stay vigilant.

"For those that are on evacuation alert, whether you're closer to the fire or a little bit further away, we ask that you be ready to go at a moment's notice. As much as we are putting as much effort as we can to get containment on [the fire], We are still dealing with with weather and dry conditions that could change," Elsay said.

BCWS structure protection specialists are available in the alert areas checking out properties, and anyone living at one of those properties is urged to do what they can to FireSmart their property in case the alert does change to an order.

The forecast in the short term looks cooler than recent days, but with that comes potential issues.

"The biggest thing that the crews will notice for sure is that the lower temperatures will just won't be as draining on their bodies," Elsay said, on the positive side of things.

"The weather that we're tracking is basically an upper-low with subtropical moisture coming up through Washington and Oregon this afternoon into this evening and into tomorrow. That weather may come with some rain and some cooler temperatures. It's forecast for that. But we're also concerned that that may bring thunderstorms and with that, erratic winds and potentially lightning which could give us some new starts."

A total of 413 fire crew members are assigned to the wildfire along with a plethora of heavy equipment and air support, based at a camp in Oliver.

To date, 606 registrations with the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen Emergency Support Services have been made. ESS can be reached at 250-486-1890.

All evacuation orders and alert remain in place. A full interactive map plus more helpful phone numbers and links can be found online here.

There is no exact timeline for when Highway 3A may reopen or homes may be downgraded from order to alert, and even when they are, BCWS urges patience from the public.

"Slow down when you see the workers, give everyone as much space as possible," Elsay said.

"We're going to be working on this on this fire for a considerable time yet."

Watch the full replay of the Keremeos Creek wildfire update for August 9 below:

UPDATE: 2 p.m.

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen and BC Wildfire Service are hosting a live update on the Keremeos Creek Wildfire at 2 p.m.

Watch live above.

UPDATE: 9:45 a.m.

The Keremeos Creek wildfire is now estimated at 6,836 hectares in size, with much of the growth due to planned ignitions carried out in recent days, and crews continue to work towards reopening roads and evacuation zones.

Conditions cooperated overnight Monday into Tuesday, according to an update from BC Wildfire Service Tuesday morning.

"Today will be sunny with a max temperature of 29 C and minimum RH of 15%. Winds are expected to be light today. An upper ridge remains over the region, generating hot and dry conditions under a stable airmass," reads the update.

"This morning there is an inversion near 1500 metres, which will break near noon. With light winds, venting will be poor to fair."

A key objective is to continue to work towards the end goal of returning residents under evacuation order to their homes.

That work will include mop-up operations in the wildland urban interface, and mop-up along the Highway 3A corridor. BCWS is working closely with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on discussions about when it is safe to reopen that road.

Fire information officer Brian Zandberg said Monday that when the highway does reopen, the public is urged to drive slowly and safely as it will still be an active wildfire work zone.

ORIGINAL: 6:20 a.m.

Fire behaviour is increasing at the Keremeos Creek wildfire southwest of Penticton, the BC Wildfire Service says.

Aggressive fire behaviour persists in the naturally free-burning areas of the fire where wind and slope align, BCWS said in a Monday night update.

"A key objective ... is to continue reducing impacts to the public in a timely fashion. This requires completing mop-up operations in the wildland urban interface to facilitate residents returning home in a safe manner," the wildfire service said.

Crews continue to mop up the fire along Highway 3A corridor to facilitate return of evacuees and reopening of the corridor.

Structural protection firefighters continue "to protect properties in all areas of concern at fire’s edge. Night operations continue with both wildland and structural crews patrolling, mopping up as needed."

Two hundred and forty five wildland firefighters are backed by an additional 160 structural protection personnel from fire departments across B.C. with 22 fire engines and 14 water tenders.

"The structure branch continues to work in the Sheep Creek, Green Mountain and Apex areas but is reassigning resources where and as needed. Structure protection crews including engine operations and sprinkler systems continue to be utilized in Olalla," BCWS says.

New control lines from planned ignitions conducted over the weekend are said to be holding well.

Crews are working to encircle the fire along the western and northern flanks, thanks to increasingly stable lines on the southern and eastern sides of the fire.

Key work areas include Olalla Forest Service Road, Green Mountain Road to the north, the Apex Mountain Resort area, Cedar Creek, and Dividend Mountain.

On the western flank, crews are using direct attack methods from Green Mountain Road to Keremeos Creek Forest Service Road. Heavy equipment continues to be used to establish contingency lines from Apex Mountain over Dividend Mountain to south Keremeos Creek.

Crews are mobilizing up into Cedar Creek to start building line tying into south end of Dividend Mountain.

On the eastern flank, containment lines continue to be established in the northeast quadrant. Crews continue to construct line around Hedges Butte towards McKay Creek as well as building fuel free and hand guard from McKay Creek towards Green Mountain Road.

Unpredictable winds make wildfires an erratic adversary: experts

Winds, terrain a challenge

Hot weather and dry conditions are the usual suspects in any wildfire season, but a complex interplay of topography and unpredictable winds can create particularly challenging adversaries for firefighters, experts say.

Shifting wind patterns have been a key concern for crews battling the Keremeos Creek fire, which has forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes.

Mary-Ann Jenkins, professor emeritus of atmospheric science at York University in Toronto, said fire generally moves in the same direction the wind is blowing.

But mountains can complicate matters, she said.

The Rockies, for instance, influence a range of factors, including humidity and localized wind directions.

"Because of the Rockies, wind can be channelled through valleys. It changes — the wind over ridges in the mountains and also sometimes you have very severe downslope winds," she said.

"And another thing that people don't know is that winds going up a hill tend to accelerate. As they go uphill, they get stronger and stronger before they reach the top."

Jenkins said the Rockies create a unique phenomenon called Chinook winds, which are extremely drying, can be experienced all year around and can add to firefighting woes.

"The weather conditions at the local level in a mountainous region are difficult to forecast. Because there are so many things that can happen due to topography."

Such unpredictability has been felt acutely around Keremeos, in British Columbia's south Okanagan. The area's Indigenous name is "valley of the three winds," said Tim Roberts, the elected regional director.

On Monday, BC Wildfire Service information officer Bryan Zandberg said winds around the Keremeos Creek fire were light, at about 15 kilometres per hour, which allowed firefighters to make good progress building containment lines.

But the winds still had the potential to push flames south toward the villages of Keremeos and Olalla, as happened last week, he said.

"We're making really good gains," he said, but added "if the wind picks up, you know, the wind could take it where it wants to."

More than 500 homes in the area have been ordered evacuated since the wildfire was reported on July 29.

It's not just the western side of the country where unpredictable winds can be a factor. In Newfoundland, where a state of emergency was called over the weekend in response to a major fire, changing wind patterns have been making the situation difficult to handle.

The blaze that began in an area called Paradise Lake was within 25 kilometres of the town of Grand Falls-Windsor, and crews were working Monday afternoon to build a fire break to keep the flames from creeping closer to the town, said Jeff Motty, the province's forest fire duty officer.

In the Northwest Territories, meanwhile, authorities are guarding against a flare-up of a fire on the west side of Marian Lake that had previously been dormant underground.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources said heavy winds from the south were expected to cause extreme fire behaviour and significant growth of the so-called "zombie fire," which has grown to about 65 square kilometres.

Prof. Mike Flannigan from Thompson Rivers University said the ingredients for a wildfire include fuel such as grasses and other vegetation, hot and dry weather and winds.

Sometimes it doesn't even have to be hot, but it has to be dry and windy to fan a fire, said the British Columbia Research Chair in predictive services, emergency management and fire science.

"Once you have a fire started, wind is also really important in how that spreads," he said in an interview. "It spreads in the direction that the wind is going. So a west wind means the fire is moving from west to east, and it's most intense in the direction of the wind. It's like being pushed along by that wind."

Usually when temperatures drop at night, humidity goes down and winds calm too, he said.

But lately, he said researchers have found nights are staying warm, winds aren't "possibly" calming as much as they used to, making it challenging for firefighters.

Jenkins said fires also tend to make their own winds because they can create a large convective storm.

A fire can produce a vortex of swirling air along a fire line, she said. Pressure is sucked out of these whirls, which can move erratically, and aren't easy to observe or predict, she said.

"Sometimes they're fairly benign, but sometimes they're not," Jenkins said. "It spreads fire in a very erratic way and it can take out houses that you didn't expect, or overwhelm firefighters."

Flannigan said that fires create hot air that rises, and a void that is filled with a stream of cold air.

"The more quickly it does that, the stronger the winds are," he said. "Wind is just the movement of air. Fires create their own wind field and the bigger the fire, the more intense the fire, the stronger the wind."

Even at the scale of a small bonfire, Jenkins said fires create their own winds.

"So, larger fires do very, very interesting things with a degree of magnitude and are fairly more dangerous. That's a natural aspect of combustion, fuel burning, a wildfire burning."

Kelowna's new wildfire resiliency plan includes developing a municipal evacuation plan

City's wildfire plan updated

The City of Kelowna has adopted its new community wildfire resiliency plan.

The five-year plan, which includes 43 recommendations, is a requirement of the provincial government in order for the city to qualify for Community Resiliency Investment grant funding.

This is the fourth wildfire plan the city has produced since the devastating Okanagan Mountain Park Fire in August of 2003.

Urban forestry technician Tara Bergeson told council Monday the city was able to complete a full review of the wildfire development permit process and forest fuel treatment of more than 125 hectares of forests across the city over the past five years.

Over the past year, Bergeson says they have completed analysis of the city's current situation with respect to climate, development policy, forest conditions and other factors.

She says the city remains at risk due to location and climate.

"We live in a fire dependent ecosystem which means our region has historically seen frequent, light intensity fires after which native vegetation thrives, invasive or destructive insects and diseases are controlled and excessive fine fuel buildup is eliminated," said Bergeson.

"Due to a lengthy period of fire suppression, our ecosystem requires proactive and strategic management to both return to, and maintain a healthy environment."

Due to shifting fire behaviour, she says new strategies are needed with respect to fuel management in grassland areas, and added improved outreach initiatives are needed to improve awareness of FireSmart initiatives.

Through the analysis, Bergeson says 16 high, 20 moderate and seven low priority items are recommended as part of the new wildfire resiliency strategy.

"Some of the key recommendations include completion of a municipal evacuation plan, assessing further policy and legislation options related to development, completing a FireSmart assessment for all critical infrastructure as well as backup power options, completing a community water delivery assessment and maintaining or expanding or expanding our current fuel mitigation activities."

Work is already underway on the critical infrastructure and water delivery assessment, evacuation planning and fuel mitigation work.

"We will review outstanding priority items against projected timelines, cost, feasibility and anticipated impact and develop a work plan for this five year document."

Bergeson says one of the previous initiatives, a neighbourhood chipping program resulted in almost 100 metric tonnes of hazardous materials being collected from over 250 homes across the city over the course of two-and-a-half months.

'Connecting the dots': BC Wildfire Service crews working around the clock on containment at Keremeos Creek, ask for patience from evacuees

Keremeos Creek fire grows

UPDATE 9 p.m.

New mapping by the BC Wildfire Service now pegs the Keremeos Creek wildfire at more than 6,800 hectares in size.

Fire information officer Marg Drysdale, assigned to the fire, says an updated mapping of the fire, including planned ignitions over the past couple of days, puts the fire at 6,832 hectares in size.

"The fire is still considered out of control, but we are getting very good progress, very good guards put in place and the crews have done a phenomenal job," Drysdale told Castanet News Monday evening.

"We are getting great progress on that fire."

All evacuation orders and alerts remain in place, but Drysdale says crews are working very hard and very diligently to get people back into their homes as soon as possible.

"But, obviously they will not change those (orders and alerts until it is safe to do so."

There remains 547 properties on evacuation order including the communities of Apex and Olalla.

UPDATE: 3 p.m.

As crews continue to battle the out-of-control Keremeos Creek wildfire, working around the clock to protect homes in evacuated communities, BC Wildfire Service urges everyone to respect evacuation orders and road closures, and to stop "belligerent" activity at check points.

The nearly 6,000 hectare blaze has 547 properties on evacuation order, including the communities of Apex and Olalla, although not all residents have complied.

BCWS information officer Bryan Zandberg said containment work is going well, helped along by a lack of wind in recent days, and now it is a matter of "connecting the dots" of containment lines. But with a fire this size in terrain this varied, there is no quick fix.

Residents are understandably eager to get back into homes, and travellers hopeful that Highway 3A will open again soon. Zandberg says they are working on it but safety is the top priority.

Particularly in the Olalla area, weather conditions have seen the fire continue to push down towards the community and the highway.

"We don't have it 100 per cent contained yet. We're getting there. But it's just too early to call that part of the fire contained," Zandberg explained.

"We're hearing people being, in some cases, verbally combative with security at some of the checkpoints, and that's really not helpful," added EOC information officer Erick Thompson.

"We really appreciate people's patience and understand that this is a difficult time ... everything is being done to get people back into their homes as quickly as possible ... showing some patience and some kindness to those people who are simply just doing their jobs is really important, understanding this process can potentially be dangerous if it's not executed properly."

Anyone who is able to leave should do so, and back-and-forth access is only available on specific approved emergency bases.

Helicopters may not be able to bucket properly if people stay in evacuated areas, those individuals may be vulnerable to rolling debris, a phenomenon that this particular fire has demonstrated in recent days, and if people in evacuation zones need to be rescued, that puts more lives at risk in the form of the RCMP and BCWS personnel who go in to get them.

"Please do just comply, please do trust that we are mindful and empathetic with the hardships people are going through and doing everything in our power to get people back into their homes," Zandberg said.

He said he is not aware of anyone who has stayed in their homes being a problem for crews at this time, but that some attempting to leave and return have been "belligerent" and caused a drain on their resources.

While there have been those instances of bad apples, many locals have demonstrated extreme patience for which rural Keremeos director Tim Roberts thanked them.

"People are frustrated and concerned but also really understanding the hard work that's being put in to protect their homes," Roberts said, adding that he and the EOC have been working on approved exceptions for access to certain properties.

"As late as last night, we have an orchard that's pushing hard to get all its fruit off the trees and it's right at the peripheral of the the edge of this evacuation order. So we were able to come to an agreement and process on how they would do evacuations, come up with a reasonable timeline and a permitting process for them to quickly get their crop off. So again, [we ask people to] continue to be patient and let us help them through the process."

On the Apex Mountain flank of the fire, activity has been quiet, but the village is still under evacuation order. Zandberg said that is because a shift in the wind could change everything "at the drop of a hat."

That said, fire crews at Apex have used the relative downtime to create groundbreaking new structure protection plans and are ready should the fire start growing their way.

"In terms of our wildland operations, we are building guards as close to the fire as we can and second and tertiary contingency linings behind those to prevent the fire from ever making a run at Apex Mountain," Zandberg said.

It's a hard-to-reach area, so crews have had to get creative.

"I understand it's novel, in terms of how much apparatus is up there and the water relay systems that have been put together collaboratively up there. The structural protection branch [of BCWS] is asking us to go up there and document what they've done because it's new. This hasn't been done before, and they're quite proud of what they've accomplished up there."

As of Monday, a total of 405 fire personnel from BCWS and crews from all over the province are actioning the fire, along with a wide arsenal of heavy equipment and air support.

Zandberg concluded Monday's press conference by asking the public to be safe on Highway 3A when it does reopen.

"We did hear from our structural protection branch a couple of days ago, before the road closure was put in. They had a couple of real near misses with folks watching the fire and nearly slamming into their fire engines going down the road," Zandberg said.

"We're going to definitely need people to [have their] eyes on the road. And driving good and slow through that area."

Evacuees needing support and residents looking for the latest information on orders and alerts can click here for helpful links and phone numbers. Reception centres are set up in Penticton at Princess Margaret Secondary and in Keremeos at Victory Hall.

Watch the full Emergency Operations Centre/BCWS update for Monday, Aug. 8 below:

Contributed RDOS

UPDATE: 2 p.m.

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen Emergency Operations Centre and BC Wildfire Service are holding a live video update on the Keremeos Creek wildfire at 2 p.m.

Watch live above.

UPDATE: 9:45 a.m.

The latest update from BC Wildfire Service indicates crews will be continuing the use of planned ignitions to fortify hand guards constructed Sunday.

"Two unit crews will use hand ignitions on approximately 30 hectares to secure a large stretch of ground north of the town of Olalla. Helicopters and an ignition specialist will also be on site," reads the update Monday morning.

"These hand ignitions will bring the fire down to safe, workable ground for crews and are crucial for creating reliable containment. During operations, increased fire activity and smoke may be visible from Olalla and Keremeos."

Weather today will reach a maximum expected temperature of 29 C and a minimum relative humidity of 15 per cent, with winds up to 10 kilometres per hour from the east and southeast.

"This means some containment lines could be challenged, potentially bringing the fire closer to Apex Mountain Resort and into the Olalla Creek drainage. Given forecasted crossover conditions, crews will be monitoring the weather for all work locations."

A new perimeter will be flown later in the day, but the current size estimate is listed at 5,903 hectares.

245 wildland firefighters are assigned to this fire working with an additional 160 structural protection personnel from fire departments across BC for a total of 405 firefighters.

The Keremeos Creek wildfire has been burning since July 29. Apex Mountain Village and Olalla remain under evacuation order, as well as many adjacent rural properties, and more than 1,000 properties are on alert.

For a full list and to find out about emergency support for evacuees, click here.

ORIGINAL: 6:30 a.m.

Controlled burns were used Sunday in a bid to rein in the Keremeos Creek wildfire southwest of Penticton.

"The fire size is going to grow because we're bringing fire to our control lines," fire information officer Mikhail Elsay said.

Crews planned the ignitions to fortify hand guard constructed Saturday.

Hand ignitions on about 30 hectares were used to secure a large stretch of ground north of Olalla and bring the fire down to safe, workable ground for crews.

Hand ignitions were also planned on the northeastern corner of the fire, from the end of Sheep Creek Road.

Crews are assigned to hold the fire to the north of the Highway 3A corridor.

The fire is currently 5,903 hectares in size.

On the western flank, crews continued a direct attack from Green Mountain Road to Keremeos Creek Forest Service Road. Heavy equipment continues to be used to establish contingency lines from Apex Mountain over Dividend Mountain to south Keremeos Creek.

On the eastern flank, containment lines continue to be established in the northeast quadrant. Crews continue to construct line around Hedges Butte towards McKay Creek as well as building fuel free and hand guard from McKay Creek towards Green Mountain Road.

BCWS Structure Protection Branch continues to assign crews to put in sprinkler systems to protect properties in the northeast quadrant along Green Mountain Road.

Night operations continue with both wildland and structural crews patrolling, mopping up where and as needed.

More than 500 properties are under an evacuation order, while more than 1,000 more are under an evacuation alert.

Hot, dry weather will continue to increase fire activity, the BC Wildfire Service says, but calmer wind conditions should help firefighters with their efforts.

"The evenings are much more stable over the last couple of days," Elsay said Sunday.

– with files from The Canadian Press

Small wildfire southwest of Ashcroft now being held, BCWS says

Fire near Ashcroft now held

A small wildfire that was discovered on Saturday burning southwest of Ashcroft is now being held, according to the BC Wildfire Service.

The blaze, located about 10 kilometres away from Ashcroft near Minaberriet Creek, was estimated to be just over six hectares in size.

Taylor Colman, fire information officer, said there are about five BCWS firefighters and a contract crew working at the site of the wildfire on Monday morning.

When the fire was discovered on Saturday, helicopters and tankers could be seen assisting ground crews to fight the blaze.

According to the BCWS’ website, the wildfire is suspected to have been caused by a person.

A second spot fire that was discovered on Sunday burning west of Ashcroft near Lone Tree Creek was declared out on Monday morning.

BCWS fire crews continue to mop up perimeter of Watching Creek wildfire

Mop up work at Watching

BC Wildfire Service crews battling the Watching Creek wildfire continue to mop up on all sides of the blaze as fire activity remained low over the weekend.

The wildfire is burning northwest of Kamloops, estimated to be 270 hectares in size. The blaze hasn't seen any measurable growth since early last week.

In a Monday morning update, BCWS said ground crews are progressing well on mop up, which involves setting up a water delivery system to the fire perimeter, hosing down areas of heat and using hand tools to break up burning materials.

“This mop up is reinforcing the machine guard that was completed by heavy equipment,” BCWS said.

BCWS said helicopters with buckets have been working throughout the weekend to cool the fire, and will continue that work on Monday.

According to BCWS, wildfire activity remained low on the weekend, but there is potential for increased fire behaviour as temperatures expected to rise in the coming week.

As of Monday morning, there are 78 firefighters, five helicopters and two pieces of heavy equipment working at the Watching Creek wildfire, the perimeter of which is about nine kilometres north of Kamloops city limits at Tranquille.

The fire was first discovered on July 29, and is believed to have been caused by lightning.

Structure protection work underway in Sparwood with wildfire burning nearby

Protecting Sparwood homes

BC Wildfire Service crews will be setting up structure protection equipment in Sparwood on Monday as an out-of-control wildfire burns about five kilometres away from the town.

The Cummings Creek fire covers an estimated 43 hectares, burning aggressively in steep, inoperable terrain just west of the community.

In an update posted online on Monday morning, BCWS officials warned Sparwood residents about structure-protection work about to get underway.

“Residents of Sparwood might see an influx of fire apparatus, structure protection unit trailers and personnel today,” the update said.

“Most of these individuals will be structure protection personnel that will be triaging and assessing properties in the Sparwood area.”

According to the BCWS, the work is being done proactively. A structure-protection specialist from the agency is working with the Sparwood fire chief.

“Currently, the community of Sparwood is not imminently threatened, however we want to give our structure protection personnel ample time to deploy structure protection apparatus in the event of the fire progressing closer to the community of Sparwood,” the update said.

Sparwood is a community of about 3,500 people near the Alberta border, east of Cranbrook and north of Fernie.

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