By Steve Hubrecht
Firefighters are working to get a growing wildfire near Canal Flats under control.
The White Tail Brook blaze was 150 hectares when discovered about 10 kilometres due east of Canal Flats, northwest of Whiteswan Provincial Park, on Sunday, June 27th, had grown to 250 hectares a few days later, and by Pioneer press time on Wednesday, July 30th was 400 hectares, making it the largest such fire in the B.C.s Southeast Fire Centre (which includes the entire Kootenay region).
Currently we are working to contain the fire, keep it on the ridge and off the valley bottom, said Southeast Fire Centre fire information officer Jordan Turner.
Smoke from the fire was visible to Canal Flats residents during the day, and flames on a ridgetop visible during the night, but Mr. Turner said there was no threat to residents.
There was growth overnight and through yesterday (Tuesday, July 29th), but all the growth was to the northeast, in the direction of Mt. Glen. So its moving in the opposite direction of Canal Flats and also the Kootenay River makes a major water barrier between the fire and Canal Flats. Theres no threat to that community, he said.
A storm system moving through the Upper Columbia Valley on the night of Tuesday, July 29th left several small spot fires, less than a single hectare in size, in the area, which prompted the Southeast Fire Centre to close the Whiteswan Forest Service Road and B.C. Parks to close Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park until further notice on Wednesday, July 30th. Parks staff were getting people at Whiteswan to leave as of Pioneer press time.
Although the White Tail Brook fire is the largest fire in the area, it is because of these spot fires, some of them on both sides of the (Whiteswan Forest Service) road that weve decided to mitigate the risk to the public and close it, said Mr. Turner.
People can check the Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park page at B.C. Parks website to see when it re-opens.
The White Tail Brook fire is not posing any significant issues right now, but its still an active situation, the fire is not contained yet and it is showing aggressive fire behaviour because of the hot, dry conditions, so things may change, said Mr. Turner.
A lightning strike initially sparked the fire. As of Pioneer press time (on Wednesday, July 30th), 50 firefighters, three or four water tenders (large tanker-type trucks), eight pieces of heavy equipment (such as excavators) and four helicopters were involved in the efforts to contain the blaze.
Open fires are currently banned in the Southeast Fire Centre, but half-metre by half-metre campfires are still allowed, as long as people have eight litres of water and a hand tool nearby, to be able to quickly put out the fire should it get out of control.
Canal Flats fire chief David Ferguson said people should exercise caution with fires this weekend due to the dry conditions. A ban on fireworks and burning barrels in the village is in place. For more information contact Mr. Ferguson at 250-417-7798.