Smoke can be seen billowing in the distance from Doctor Creek

Forest fire leads to single house evacuation

single home north of Spillimacheen received an evacuation order from the RDEK on July 4 after a sizable fire started in the area.

A single home north of Spillimacheen received an evacuation order from the Regional District of East Kootenay on July 4 after a sizable fire started in the area.

According to Jordan Turner, Fire Information Officer for the Southeast Fire Centre, the wildfire is estimated to be about 54 hectares in size. As of July 6, there were 35 firefighters, three pieces of heavy equipment and a helicopter employed to fight the blaze.

“We do not have containment on that fire right now,” Turner said. “This fire grew very quickly. We are going to do everything we can, but it is going to be a little while before we get this wrapped up.”

As crews continue to fight the fire in Spillimacheen, others prepare for the impending threat of wildfires across the East Kootenay.

“Right now we are looking at conditions that we do not normally see until the core summer period of late July and early August,” Turner said. “We are expecting more hot and dry weather. With what we have seen across the province, the fires are very aggressive, with fires growing quickly and growing in unpredictable directions.”

The weather conditions have led to a massive jump in recorded fires this year compared with last year. At this time last year, there were only two lightning-caused fires and 20 human-caused fires in the Southeast Fire Centre.

“So far this year, we have had 82 lightning-caused fires in the Southeast Fire Centre and 47 human-caused fires,” Turner said.

The conditions led to a campfire ban across the province on July 3. Turner said it is very important for valley residents to be aware of how to avoid causing fires.

“Anytime people are in the backwoods, it can increase dangers,” Turner said. “For example, with ATV mufflers or dirt bikes with improperly serviced muffler systems that are going through high grass, a spark coming out of those can easily start a fire in these kinds of conditions. In addition, of course be very careful if you are throwing out cigarette butts.”

With increased strain on firefighters in the area, Turner said it is important to make sure that crews only have to respond to naturally occurring fires.

“Every human-caused fire is of course preventable,” Turner said. “With that in mind, we are asking that the public be very careful if they are going out into the woods for any reason.”

In Kootenay National Park, Parks Canada officials have declared a state of extreme fire danger. So far, the park has avoided any forest fires, but the hot, dry conditions indicate that the trend may soon be broken.

“Kootenay tends to experience more wildfires because of the lightning strikes that tend to go through here,”  said Kootenay Nation Park communications officer Tania Peters. “The conditions right now are certainly conducive to some pretty extreme wildfire behaviour, but it is really dependant on if we get those lightning strikes without the rain.”

As a preventative measure, Parks Canada has recently introduced a fire ban at Readstreak Campground near Radium.

To report a fire anywhere in B.C., call 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on a cellphone. To report a fire within Kootenay National Park, call 403-762-1473.

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