The Doctor Creek wildfire raging southwest of Canal Flats continues to grow, even as firefighters keep battling the blaze with different tactics.
The fire has been burning in the backcountry 25 kilometres southwest of Canal Flats since Tuesday, August 18th, and rapidly grew into one of only three provincially designated ‘wildfires of note’, prompting the British Columbia Wildfire Service (BCWS) to send in an incident command team. When the Pioneer last reported on the fire it was 5,800 hectares in size. However, last week the blaze leaped to more than 7,900 hectares, with most of that growth coming on the night of Tuesday, September 1st. Strong winds, with gusts up to 50 kilometres per hour, helped spread the fire in a southeasterly direction through the night of September 1st. Later in the week, on Friday, September 4th, the BCWS conduced planned ignitions along the southeast flank of the fire in an effort to contain it and prevent even further growth.
“The southeast flank of the fire remains very active. Due to steep terrain, heavy equipment has been unable to operate in this area and local wind patterns have limited direct attack. The planned ignition will bring the fire’s edge down to pre-determined boundaries where crews will be able to safely deliver water to the fire’s edge,” read a BCWS press release that came out on Friday, September 3rd. “Crews have established containment lines along the south, southeast and southwest flanks of the fire in preparation for the planned ignition. Heavy equipment control lines and hand guard on the south flank have been tied into steep rocky terrain on the east flank where helicopters have been delivering fire retardant. To the west, the southern control line ties into a natural fuel break.”
The ignitions were done by helicopter, using Plastic Sphere Dispensers (PSD). PSDs shoot golf-ball sized polystyrene spheres down from the helicopter. The spheres are partially filled with potassium permanganate crystals and combust shortly after the spheres reach the ground.
A total of 185 firefighters, six helicopters, and 13 pieces of heavy equipment are in action on the Doctor Creek wildfire.