Fire fight far from over

Chelsea Powrie

UPDATE: 6:35 p.m.

The fight is far from over at the Eagle Bluff wildfire. 

Evacuation alerts have been lifted and the large smoke plumes that dominated the skyline east of Oliver for much of this week have dissipated, but that doesn't mean BC Wildfire Service is getting complacent about the 2,632 hectare blaze.

"When a fire runs through the surface, it also gets embedded into the lower layers of the ground, and it will continue burning," said operations section chief Andre Chalabi. 

"So whatever rain we got in the last few days, between 10 and 15 millimetres of rain, it really helped knock down and slow down the fire growth, but the fire will continue to burn underneath until further action is taken."

On Tuesday afternoon, crews were hard at work cleaning up hot spots that remained after a planned ignition near the perimeter of the fire, one of several that have already been executed or are planned. They were just a few members of the 147 who are active on this wildfire during the day, followed by 47 overnight. 

Chalabi remarked the mid-20-degree heat wasn't feeling too bad, given the plus-30 temperatures they have been dealing with on many of the days since the fire first sparked on Sunday, Aug. 4. 

He described the planned ignition as a tool that allows crews to direct the fire to areas where they can fight it "on our own terms."

"So we established a plan here to ignite a certain area, and have the crews use hand torches or drip torches to light along the perimeter to control the fire," he explained, pointing to a charred line snaking along the side of a forest service road high in the hills. 

Crews have also been strategically clearing long swathes of forest surrounding the active areas to create a natural barrier for the fire. It’s tough terrain — steep, and dense, often requiring crews to hike long distances in and water to be pumped up via long pipes from far below. 

Chalabi said a disruption to the area's natural fire cycle, which would see blazes burn through underbrush and other low-lying fuel for flames every three to 15 years, has contributed to the severity of the fires in recent years. 

"Fire exclusion has really created an ingrowth problem," he said, explaining that human interference stopping natural fires has caused a buildup of fast-burning fuel.

"The solution is to actually apply more fire on the land base through a prescribed burning application."

BC Wildfire expects Eagle Bluff may see an uptick in activity this week if the dry heat continues. Smoke is minimal above the wildfire area as of Tuesday afternoon, but that may change. 

Fire information officer Shannon Street said smoke could also increase as a result of the planned ignition activities.

ORIGINAL: 9:33 a.m.

The Eagle Bluff wildfire remains at 2,632 hectares in size. 

A Tuesday morning update indicates that while the fire is still classified as out of control, no growth was mapped overnight.

"Today, crews will continue to build guard and complete mop up and patrol. Preparation continues for a planned ignition on the northern flank, and crews are taking advantage of the current weather conditions to complete indirect attack line," reads the update. 

The fire is burning deep in the ground, and with warm, dry weather in the forecast, BC Wildfire Service expects an increase in fire activity in the coming week. 

Castanet will be on the ground and in the air at the fire zone this afternoon to take footage and learn more from wildfire crews. 

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