The 2015 fire season, already costing the province over $200 million with 1,604 fires to date, 473 of those in the Southeast region, picked up over the weekend.
The Southeast Fire Centre has responded to 46 new fires since Thursday, almost all of which are believed to be lightning-caused.
Crews are responding to these new incidents in order of priority, says Fire Information Officer Fanny Bernard, with the protection of life and property being the main objectives.
The entire region has been blanketed with smoke since last Thursday. Bernard says the smoke is mainly from fires in Oregon, Idaho and Washington State, but local fires, such as the 600 hectare Mount Midgley fire near Creston may be adding to it.
The Mount Midgley fire is burning 13 kilometres northwest of Creston and was discovered Friday, August 14. Bernard says cooler temperatures and some rain helped over the weekend and the fire has not grown too much. The fire is highly visible from Creston, she said, but not threatening homes or communication towers on the mountain.
Closer to home, the RDEK reported a fire on the Peavine Forest Service Road near Westview Road area south of Cranbrook. The fire is currently in mop up and there were no evacuation alerts or evacuation orders in place.
Near Rock Creek, the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary completed an assessment of damage in the area and has confirmed that 29 homes and additional structures have been lost. An Evacuation Order and an additional Evacuation Alert issued by the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary remains in effect. The fire centre reports that the fire is likely human-caused.
“All human-caused wildfires are preventable and unnecessarily divert firefighting resources from naturally occurring fires,” said Fire Information Officer Jordan Turner. “The Southeast Fire Centre is urging everyone to be cautious when in the backcountry and refrain from any activities that may cause a wildfire.”
More than 100 BC Wildfire Service firefighters are being supported by seven helicopters, 14 pieces of heavy equipment and airtanker groups as necessary.
Highway 3 was re-opened Sunday, with flag people directing traffic through the fire area, but Highway 33 remained closed.
There are also two large interface fires near the town of Oliver. The Testalinden Creek wildfire, burning approximately seven kilometres south of Oliver, was estimated at over 1560 hectares on Sunday morning. Airtankers, six helicopters and 96 firefighters continue to work towards establishing containment. An evacuation order remained in place on Sunday for approximately 100 homes in the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen.
The Wilson Mountain Road fire is burning one kilometre north of Oliver and was estimated at 317 hectares in size on Sunday. The fire is a smouldering ground fire with minimal open flame. Twenty-nine firefighters established guard around portions of the perimeter. They were supported by four helicopters. On Saturday afternoon the BC Wildfire Service recommended the downgrade of the evacuation order to an evacuation alert for residents in the immediate area.
Residents are reminded that cooler temperatures and some rain over the weekend does not mean that caution is not needed. The campfire ban remains in effect across the Southeast region.
The BC Wildfire Service once again encourages public input in reporting any new fires.
To report a wildfire, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone.