The Southeast Fire Centre says the thick blanket of smoke that has settled over the Kootenays the past few days is mostly coming from large fires in western Washington, Oregon, and the south coast of B.C. However, local fires are contributing as well.
The smoke is expected to remain in the region at least for the rest of today, although the levels will depend not only on atmospheric conditions, but also on the amount of smoke the fires south of hte border produce, which the centre says can be difficult to predict.
On the plus side, the heavy smoke is keeping fire behaviour low on fires within our region, and in some cases, allowing ground personnel to get further ahead on direct attack strategies. However, it’s also limiting the ability to fly planes.
Airtankers are unable to fly when visibility is this poor and helicopter bucketing operations become even more high risk. Helicopters are now only able to fly in limited capacity to perform reconnaissance flights and bucketing operations as pockets of visibility allow, the centre said.
Fry Creek wildfire
An incident management team has been brought in to manage this wildfire, about 15 km north of Kaslo on the east side of Kootenay Lake. It officially took command on Sunday.
A break in visibility allowed staff to fly more of the fire, which is now estimated at 900 hectares.
The BC Wildfire Service says there are still areas of the fire that are obscured by smoke. Once it clears and accurate mapping can occur, the size is expected to change.
An evacuation alert for about 50 properties in Johnsons Landing and Birchdale remains in place. An area restriction also remains in place.
Monument Creek wildfire
Crews are establishing containment lines on the south flank of this fire from Duhamel Creek, tying them into rockier areas that can act as natural fuel breaks to prevent down valley growth.
The fire is burning about 17 kilometres north of Nelson and is now estimated at 660 hectares. While the fire’s growth has been minimal since smoke settled into the area, the size has been updated to reflect estimated growth over the past few days. It’s not threatening any homes.
Heavy equipment continues establishing containment lines on the east flank above Six Mile Lake by re-opening existing road networks. Four helicopters remain assigned to this incident and will perform bucketing operations when visibility allows.
Woden Creek wildfire
This fire about 27 kilometers north of Slocan and seven kilometers southeast of Burton is estimated at 145 hectares.
Firefighters are continuing to work on containment lines in the northwest corner of the fire. Heavy equipment remains on scene today tying in control lines together.
While helicopters were able to perform bucketing operations on Sunday, current visibility is preventing safe flying operations in this area. Aircraft are available to this fire should visibility improve. Structures are not threatened.