Smoky Skies Advisory issued

Smoke fills valley from West Kootenay, U.S. fires, no fires threatening communities

The Big Sheep Creek fire near Rossland.

The Big Sheep Creek fire near Rossland.

After a couple of days of relatively clear skies in the Cranbrook-Kimberley area, the valley is once again filled with thick smoke — largely from the enormous wildfires burning south of the border.

“We’ve had smoke from large fires in the U.S.A come into the area (Wednesday) afternoon, with the southerly wind,” said Fanny Bernard, Fire Information Officer with the Southeast Fire Centre. “That was mixed in from larger incidents from the Kamloops Fire Centre as well, just west of the East Kootenay.

Bernard said the smoke would likely dissipate Thursday afternoon, but unfortunately the winds are forecasted to shift again to a southerly direction (from the south), which will fill valleys in southeast B.C. with more smoke.

“The good news is there are no fires in the Cranbrook-Kimberley area that would be putting out this amount of smoke. There are only a few fires — there’s a very small fire in Kidd Creek, it’s burning very remotely, in the Kootenay Lake zone.”

While all is relatively quiet on the East Kootenay front, in Idaho and Washington Firefighters on several fronts were fighting against wildfires advancing on towns.

Authorities say three firefighters died after their vehicle crashed and was apparently caught by a “hellstorm” of flames as they battled a blaze in Washington state. Four other firefighters were injured near Twisp. The news came after officials urged people in the popular outdoor-recreation centres of Twisp and Wintrop to evacuate.

A larger group of fires burning to the east covered about 50 square miles and prompted the evacuation of Conconully, home to about 200 people.

Nearly 700 firefighters supported by 39 fire engines and aircraft continue to work on a group of fires near Kamiah in northern Idaho that has destroyed 42 homes. But containment is only 30 per cent on the fires that have scorched 61 square miles.

Oregon and California are also seeing wildfires 10s of thousands of acres in size.

While progress has been made in southern B.C., wildfires are still blazing in the West Kootenay.

Firefighters are working fast as they try to contain the huge Rock Creek fire burning east of Osoyoos, B.C., but changing weather could undermine their best efforts.

The B.C. Wildfire Service says the fire is now 50 per cent contained, but less smoke and better mapping reveal flames have scorched 42-square kilometres of bush.

A change in weather is also on the way, with a dry, cold front forecast to sweep across B.C.’s boundary region, which hugs the U.S. border.

The wildfire service warns the front could pack some strong winds, potentially fanning the Rock Creek fire, complicating efforts to fully contain it.

All evacuation orders have now been lifted for hundreds of people forced out by the fire, but evacuation alerts are still in effect and residents have been warned they may have to leave on short notice.

Thirty homes and 15 outbuildings have been destroyed since the human-caused blaze broke out one week ago.

“We do have a large incidence in British Columbia, unfortunately,” Bernard said.”

Bernard urged the public to check out the following online sites for the best, most up-to-date information. Facebook in particular is interactive and useful in this regard she said.

For information on fires in the U.S.A,  visit: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/

For up-to-date information on the wildfire situation in B.C,  visit: www.bcwildfire.ca

For current road conditions, including closures,  visit: http://www.drivebc.ca/

The phone reports from the public are an important part of responding quickly and effectively to new fires. To report a wildfire or unattended campfire, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone.

You can also follow the latest wildfire news on:

• Twitter at http://twitter.com/BCGovFireInfo

• Facebook at http://facebook.com/BCForestFireInfo