KAMLOOPS - Hydro has been restored, people are allowed to return home and crews are now able to work on hot spots in the interior of the 1,389 hectare Botanie Creek fire, which as of Thursday afternoon sits at 50 per cent contained.
“The wet weather is a good thing all around,” Fire Information Officer David Steeves says, adding the rain did not change the behaviour of the fire but will aid in suppression. “It will give a working window to push forward and make some good gains.”
A lot of areas are in the mop up phase and Steeves says they continue to make structure protection a priority and are making ‘significant progress’ in putting out hot spots. One house was lost to the blaze over the weekend, along with a couple outbuildings.
The 120 people evacuated were allowed to return home this week though they remain on evacuation alert. They are also asked to respect the additional security placed on the road and to let them know when they are coming and going, to help keep everyone safe.
Gary Horley, who is on the ground with the wildfire crews in Lytton, says crews are continuing to work the east and south flanks but the recent heavy rain has made the steep west flank even more dangerous.
“The west flank is steep, and slick,” Horley says. “It’s harder to put equipment and people in there.”
The heavy rain brought more smoke to the fire, which has been burning for 10 days, on Thursday but it has also allowed crews to work towards a 100 per cent mop up on private land, something they don’t usually achieve in larger fires.
“On a large fire like this we don’t always get to mop up completely. We usually put a guard in and go in at least 100’ (with a wet line,)” he notes. “Because it is burning adjacent to so many residents we will do a 100 per cent mop up.”
Horley says the number of resources — currently more than 170 firefighters, two helicopters and eight pieces of heavy equipment — and the cool, wet weather has allowed crews to gain more control but any change in the weather could quickly change things.
“The wind has been blowing and gusting but it has a lot less impact on a day like today,” he says, pointing to the wet fuel. “We almost had it corralled (early on) and then the wind came up and there it goes.”
Back in the spring local agencies recognized the high risk the area was in for a wildfire in the Lytton and was one of the reasons several prescribed burns were completed back in April. The 34-ha controlled burn performed just north of Lytton did little to stop the spread of this particular fire though, the closest points of the two were 1.5 km apart.
“It would’ve had to have been a much larger prescribed burn,” Fire Information Officer Mike McCulley says. “It really had no impact on this fire at all. Not in this case. Maybe if it had crept north more.”
Meanwhile the Kamloops Fire Centre continues to battle the half dozen active fires of note in the region while waiting for calls on lightning starts following the storm that moved through the Interior Wednesday.
“The possibility of additional fires is still very real,” Steeves says. “Call if you see smoke. *5555 on your cell.”
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