CRANBROOK, B.C. – The unprecedented, aggressive behaviour of three blazes in southeastern British Columbia has forced firefighting crews to withdraw from the area, the BC Wildfire Service said on Friday.
Fire information officer Karlie Shaughnessy said a grouping of three smaller fires in the Flathead area east of Cranbrook is not threatening any homes or structures, but unpredictable activity prompted the pull out.
The combined size of the fires is about 26 square kilometres and the wildfire service said none are contained.
Crews are also working to control several other wildfires in southeastern B.C.
Those include a 16-square-kilometre blaze just outside the East Kootenay community of Moyie that has forced evacuations in the Moyie Lake area.
It was sparked by lightning on Sept. 7, and the wildfire service said it remains uncontained and very active with 58 personnel, three helicopters and 14 pieces of equipment assigned to fight the fire.
Shaughnessy said the flare up of the Flathead area fires is concerning.
“This happened when we issued the Rocky Mountain backcountry restriction, just because a lot of these fires burning in the backcountry were displaying very aggressive behaviour and were unpredictable,” she said, adding crew safety is always the first priority.
Heavy smoke from wildfires continues to blanket most of the lower two-thirds of British Columbia, prompting air quality advisories.
Wildfire service spokesman Kevin Skrepnek said the smoke has helped keep temperatures down and trap in humidity, calming fires particularly in the southern Interior.
Environment Canada is calling for showers in many of the fire-plagued regions Friday and Saturday, and Skrepnek said the change in the weather system will likely clear the air and improve visibility.
He said a sustained downpour will be needed to help douse any of the blazes, but the light rain will help ease some of the largest fires burning in the southern Interior and Cariboo regions.
“It’s certainly going to be a welcome reprieve for a few days,” he said. “Any moisture is welcome given how dry it is out there … but it’s not going to end fire season.”
The rain isn’t expected to reach the new fires in the East Kootenay.
The Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre said it has rescinded an evacuation alert for properties about 20 kilometres east of Kelowna as the fire off nearby Highway 33 is now 70 per cent contained.
A blaze near Peachland on the west side of Okanagan Lake has prompted evacuation orders and alerts, but crews continue to build guards and the wildfire service said the flames are 15 per cent contained.
South of Vanderhoof in the Prince George fire centre, the province said access has been restored to areas previously cut off by wildfires and an evacuation order in the southwest Chilcotin area has also been downgraded to an alert by the Cariboo Regional District and a local First Nation.
Emergency Management BC said there were 19 evacuation orders affecting more than 4,800 people Friday, while 11,600 people remain on evacuation alert. (CHBZ, The Canadian Press)