A helicopter buckets water from Mabel Lake during the BC Day long weekend, actioning several fires in the area. (Jennifer Smith/Morning Star)

Increased fire behaviour in North Okanagan

Several active wildfires burning out of control

UPDATE: THURSDAY, 12:30 p.m.

Five fires of note burning in the North Okanagan continue to challenge firefighting crews.

Increased fire behaviour has been seen at Harris Creek (260 hectares), Mabel Creek (200 hectares), Sugar Mountain (170 hectares) and Procter Road (now 52.5 hectares) while Monte Lake remains controlled at 114 hectares.

“With the drying trend and higher temperatures, increased fire behaviour is expected,” BC Wildfire Service fire information officer Rosalie MacAulay said. “Burning debris has been rolling over containment lines.”

At Harris Creek, planned ignitions have been successfully completed this week by 32 firefighters on scene who are also working with Tolko personnel and six pieces of heavy equipment as well as seven helicopters in the area available as needed.

North of Lumby, the Mabel Creek fire crossed the creek this week therefore crews are working to build guards on the west flank to limit growth toward Mabel Lake. Smoke will be highly visible from this fire. A fire camp is also expected to be set up Friday east of Lumby and helipads are being established.

“There will be potential for significant fire growth if there are new starts,” the service said in a release. “Fires will be surface fires but starts in continuous grass fuels will potentially grow to 20 hectares in 30 minutes during peak burning periods. Temperature and fuels indicate slow fire spread; however, steep slopes and winds aligning with the slope would result in significant runs.”

There are 15 BCWS firefighters and two danger tree assessors along with Tolko staff and their seven pieces of equipment on the suppression of this wildfire.

Sugar Mountain is also seeing elevations in fire behaviour during the afternoon hours.

“Tolko is working 4 a.m. to noon on the fire since Saturday, mostly putting in roads and guards,” said Cherryville Fire Warden, Clint Whitecotton. “Helicopters are bucketing on it now in the evenings.”

Fire on the east slope is a concern but they have a line on the bottom side and northwest side.

“Concern is to keep the fire from running up the draw through all the timber fuel,” said Whitecotton.

Area restrictions remain in place for both the Sugar and Mabel fires in order to address public safety and avoid interface with fire control.

Growth at the Procter Road wildfire (previously mapped at 20 hectares) is due to more accurate mapping.

“The crews have made excellent progress in the suppression of this wildfire and will continue to work to increase containment,” said MacAuley. “They have a machine guard on the north end of the perimeter on flat ground, and they also have a fuel free zone around the entire perimeter of the Proctor Road wildfire.”

The blaze, considered as being held, has 13 firefighters on scene.

There were also two small fires burning near Westside Road earlier this week, but both have since been extinguished.

Report of a fire near Predator Ridge Wednesday turned out to be false.

……………..

UPDATE: WEDNESDAY 6:30 p.m.

The BC Wildfire Service is expecting increased fire behaviour for the Harris Creek wildfire south of Lumby.

“With the drying trend and higher temperatures, increased fire behaviour is expected. This fire is located in an area where there is steep terrain, heavy fuels and closed canopies which could lead to challenging situations should any flare-ups occur. Burning debris has been rolling over containment lines,” fire information officer Rosalie MacAulay said.

“Winds along the lakes have been tending to go upslope from the lakes to the fire locations. Predicted fire behaviour is elevated in the afternoon with fuel types predicted to move 30 metres in 20 minutes.”

However, recent planned ignitions were completed successfully on the north-northwest side of the fire.

As of Wednesday evening, 32 BCWS fire fighters and an operations chief are working with Tolko personnel, six pieces of heavy equipment as well as 7 helicopters are available as needed. This wildfire is classified as out of control and remains estimated at 260 hectares.

The service said that there is also a chance for significant fire growth to the Mabel Creek fire.

“There will be potential for significant fire growth if there are new starts,” the service said in a release. “Fires will be surface fires but starts in continuous grass fuels will potentially grow to 20 hectares in 30 minutes during peak burning periods. Temperature and fuels indicate slow fire spread; however, steep slopes and winds aligning with the slope would result in significant runs.”

The machine gun guard is nearly complete and crews are working towards containment.

There are 15 BCWS firefighters and two danger tree assessors along with Tolko staff and their seven pieces of equipment on the suppression of this wildfire. There are also seven helicopters are available as needed. This wildfire is classified as out of control and remains at 200 hectares.

Sugar Mountain is also seeing elevations in fire behaviour during the afternoon hours.

“Fire spread seems to be slow however with steep slopes and wind aligning with the slope, significant runs are possible,” MacAuley said.

Crews are now 40 to 50 percent complete building guard on the east flank of the Sugar Mountain fire. The equipment task force team will continue with machine guard construction. The fire remains out of control.

Meanwhile, the Proctor Road fire northeast of Lumby has been remapped by the service at 52.5 hectares, up from 20.

“The area change is due to more accurate mapping,” MacAuley said.

“The crews have made excellent progress in the suppression of this wildfire and will continue to work to increase containment. They have a machine guard on the north end of the perimeter on flat ground, and they also have a fuel free around the entire perimeter of the Proctor Road wildfire.”

As of Wednesday evening, 13 firefighters are on scene. The blaze is considered being held.

A tight pressure gradient Friday will bring moderate to strong winds in the western most areas of the region. The upper ridge will bring thunderstorms starting Friday night and Saturday will see cooler temperatures into the 20s and light and moderate southwest winds along with thunderstorms.

—-

UPDATE WEDNESDAY 12:30 p.m.:

Some inconsistencies with the size of the Mabel Creek fire are being cleared up.

“(Tuesday), there was a mix up with respect to the size of this fire,” states Rosalie MacAulay, fire information officer with the BC Wildfire Service. “The Mabel Creek fire is closer to 200 ha and a boundary track will be taken to provide a more accurate size.”

There are 20 firefighters on scene of the blaze, which was sparked July 31, suspected by lightning. The wildfire is classified as out of control.

See related: Fires indirectly burn Enderby business

The wildfire is one of the multiple fire starts in the drainages of Mabel and Sugar lakes from Highway 6 in the south to Three Valley Gap in the north.

“Several of the fires, including Mabel Creek wildfire, have grown past the initial attack stage; local forest companies have engaged heavy equipment and personnel on these fires,” said MacAulay. BCWS operations staff and a unit crew are working with the industry personnel in the suppression.

“Yesterday, there was active fire behaviour consuming green pockets of fuel and smoke was visible. Today, it is expected the fire behaviour will increase.”

Crews continue to build guard to decrease the possibility of this wildfire jumping into the major drainage located west of the fire. This machine guard is almost complete and the crews are working towards containment.

“This fire is located in an area where there are heavy fuels and closed canopies that can be challenging if there are flare ups. Steep terrain is also an issue for the suppression of this wildfire and burning debris has been rolling over containment lines.”

An area restriction remains in place around the blaze, and north of the fire as well as surrounding the 170 hectare Sugar Mountain fire in Cherryville.

Over in Monte Lake, the 114-hectare wildfire there is now considered as being held, meaning it is not expected to grow outside of its perimeter. Sixteen personnel are on site today with two water tenders.

A fire reported near Predator Ridge Wednesday afternoon turned out to be a smoke chase.

BC Wildfire Service had mapped a spot-sized fire near Howards Road, south of Predator in the hills above Commonage Road.

“Either one or multiple reports were called in and it turned out to be nothing,” said Nicole Bonnett, BC Wildfire Service fire information officer.

Across the lake there are two fires burning near Westside Road. The two spot-sized fires were sparked Tuesday, one is called Quilpituk Creek and the other Westside Road.

………………………………………………..

UPDATE, TUESDAY 7:43 p.m.

BC Wildfire Service said they made progress on the Harris Creek fire today.

Crews established a wide containment line around the fire to “box” it in and the machine guard on the west flank is almost complete.

The cause of the Mabel Creek fire remains under investigation and crews continue to build a guard to decrease the possibility of the wildfire from jumping into the major drainage located west of where it is burning.

The Proctor Road wildfire, 16 kilometres northeast of Lumby, is estimated to be 20 hectares and is considered as being “held.”

******************************

UPDATE, TUESDAY, 4 p.m.:

The Okanagan heat wave has sparked increased fire behaviour at several major blazes burning in the area.

The Lumby area has four fires of note: Mabel Creek, Harris Creek, Sugar Mountain and Procter Road. There are also a number of spot-sized fires in the area. Within the Vernon Fire Zone, the Monte Creek fire is also considered a fire of note, at 114 hectares but it is 100 per cent guarded.

“Because of the current drying trend we have been experiencing active fire behaviour for the all fires,” said Rosalie MacAulay, fire information officer.

“To this point there hasn’t been anything that has jumped our containment lines.”

A heat warning is in effect for the North Okanagan as temperatures are forecast to reach 36 Wednesday and 38 Thursday. There is also a special air quality statement in effect due to wildfire smoke.

Updated mapping for the Mabel Creek fire continues, which was originally estimated at 200 hectares but was changed to 86.5 Tuesday.

There are 25 firefighters on scene of the blaze, which is 6.5 kilometres from Mabel Lake, and five helicopters available up in the area. Tolko is also assisting with equipment.

The Procter Road fire continues to sit at 20 hectares.

“They do have a containment line all the way around it,” said MacAulay, adding that 13 crew members are on scene.

Residents may have noticed some additional action at the 260-hectare Harris Creek blaze, which is considered out of control.

Planned ignitions, in the north west area, took place Tuesday morning.

“It was successful,” said MacAulay.

There is a unit crew of 20 firefighters on scene at Harris and again the five helicopters in the area available. Tolko is also assisting at Harris Creek.

“This fire is located in an area where there are heavy fuels and closed canopies that can be challenging if there are flare ups,” said MacAulay. “Steep terrain is also an issue and burning debris has been rolling over containment lines.”

Over at Sugar Mountain, industry personnel and equipment are working on the 170 hectare fire and BC Wildfire operational staff are on scene, but there are no actual wildfire crews.

Forest use restrictions remain in place at Sugar Mountain and Mabel Creek wildfires. An evacuation alert also remains in place for approximately 50 cabins at Mabel Lake and the Cottonwood Beach recreation site.

“We aren’t closed, just on evacuation notice. The fire is a ways away from us,” said Camp Host Courtney Derry.

With the Mabel restriction, the Mabel Lake forest service road is closed north of the Cottonwood Beach rec site to Three Valley Gap.

UPDATE: 6:38 p.m.

The Harris Creek fire burning approximately 16 km southeast of Lumby has grown to 260 hectares in size.

BC Wildfire Service reported on Monday afternoon that an air tanker request will be evaluated and considered for this wildfire as a precautionary measure.

“If conditions permit, planned ignitions may occur on the north-northwest flank,” the Service reported on their website. “Smoke will be visible as a result of the planned ignitions and may also be visible as a result of natural fire behaviour.”

The Harris Creek fire was deemed out of control and had 20 firefighters working on it as of Monday afternoon. The cause was deemed to be from a lightning strike.

The Sugar Mountain fire, 4 km east of Sugar Lake, was at 170 hectares Monday at noon. It is also considered out of control.

Meanwhile, the Proctor Road fire approximately 16 km northeast of Lumby was an estimated 20 hectares in size Monday.

“The crews have a machine guard on the north end of the perimeter on flat ground, and they also have a fuel-free zone around the entire perimeter of the Proctor Road wildfire,” the Service reported.

This fire is deemed out of control, and the cause is still under investigation.

SUNDAY, AUG. 5

An Incident Management Team was transitioning into control of the management of the Mabel Creek, Sugar Mountain and Proctor Road wildfires burning in the North Okanagan.

“We’re just taking the fires over. They’re just assessing everything right now,” said Rosalie MacAulay, fire information officer.

These fires are three of multiple fire starts in the drainages of Mabel and Sugar lakes from Highway 6 in the south to Three Valley Gap in the north. Several of the fires, including Sugar Mountain and Mabel Creek fires, has grown beyond the initial attack stage.

“Local forest companies have engaged heavy equipment and personnel on these fires,” MacAulay said. “Three helicopters are available as needed.”

As of Sunday afternoon, 13 firefighters were on the scene of the Proctor Road fire.

Related: Monte Lake wildfire ‘being held’

—-

Original

Area restrictions are now in effect for Sugar Mountain and Mabel Creek wildfires.

Effective immediately, area restrictions for Crown land in the vicinity of the Sugar Mountain and Mabel Creek wildfires are in effect to protect public safety, ensure the safety of firefighting personnel and deter interference with wildfire-control activities.

These restrictions remain in place until 12 p.m. on Sept. 15, 2018, or until rescinded.

Related: Evacuation alert issued around Mabel Lake

Related: Sugar Mountain fire grows

Under these Orders and section 11(2) of the Wildfire Act, a person must not remain in or enter the restricted areas without the prior written authorization of an official designated for the purposes of the Wildfire Act, unless the person enters the area only in the course of travelling as a person acting in an official capacity and travelling for the purpose of supporting wildfire suppression activities.

After a brief reprieve, lightning has struck again and sparked four new fires in the North Okanagan Saturday, Aug. 4.

According to the BC Wildfire Service, the largest of those fires is located northwest of Green Bush Lake and measures 5.9 hectares in size. Southwest of the lake, another fire is burning at 2.1 hectares.

East of Tsuius Mountain, the service has mapped a fire at 4.8 hectares that was also suspected to be caused by lightning Saturday.

A 0.1hectare fire near Hound Creek was also reported Saturday as well as a 0.01 blaze near Devil Creek, reported Sunday, with no known cause.

As of Sunday morning, the service has not released any new information about the largest fires in the North Okanagan – the Mabel Creek fire that sits at 200 hectares, the Sugar Mountain fire at 170 hectares, the fire near Monte Lake at 60 hectares and the Proctor Road blaze at 20 hectares.

Related: Monte Lake fire grows to 60 hectares

As of Sunday morning, the service notes 24 active fires in the area between Vernon and the Mabel Range.

To report a wildfire or open burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free, or *5555 on a cell phone.

Further information about fires in the area will follow as updates become available.

To report a typo, email: newstips@vernonmorningstar.com.


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The 200 hectare Mabel Creek wildfire continues to burn approximately 6 kilometres from Mabel Lake on the Lumby side. While an evacuation alert has been issued for approximately 50 cabins and the Cottonwood Beach recreation site, no structures are currently threatened. (Jennifer Smith/Morning Star)

Crews battle the Procter fire near Lumby Thursday. (Dave Nikki Deubby photo)

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