Fire guards challenged by growth at White Rock Lake wildfire near Westwold | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Fire guards challenged by growth at White Rock Lake wildfire near Westwold

An aerial photo of the White Rock Lake wildfire on July 22, 2021.
Image Credit: B.C. Wildfire Service
July 23, 2021 - 10:16 AM

Air tankers and helicopters doused hotspots on the White Rock Lake wildfire yesterday as the blaze pushed against guard lines.

The wildfire has been estimated to cover about 7,401 hectares as of today, July 23, leaving at least 73 Thompson Nicola Regional District properties ordered to evacuate near Westwold and hundreds more on alert towards Monte Lake.

The White Rock Lake wildfire was first discovered on July 13, southeast of Westwold.

On most of its flanks, fire activity was quiet this morning, but there was some down slope growth overnight, according to B.C. Wildfire Service.

Hotspots pushing against existing fire guards to the north yesterday and forced crews to work on contingency plans, but air tankers were there to drop retardant in the afternoon to hamper its growth.

"We are always looking at a contingency plan, and if it burns out, we stand back and try again. We're looking for plan B and plan C well before we need to," fire information officer Mike McCauley said. "There's some steep, rocky ground that's challenging equipment, but crews are trying to tie (fire guards) back together with lines that are meaningful."

McCauley says that it's important for the guards to obtain a meaningful objective and not simply placed anywhere. The same goes for air tankers and bucketing from helicopters.

"While we can't often fly air tankers in that area, we can bucket by helicopter and we are doing that," he said. "We like to apply water to the fire during the period of the day when it's least active. Then we'll pull it back."

They are bringing in at least one helicopter with two pilots, which is a big benefit for the wildfire crews near Westwold, because each pilot is limited to eight hours of flying time per day.

They will also be adding a ground-based retardant truck, which will spray along the guard lines today.

"We're trying to work ahead of the fire, because direct attack is not always the best tactic. Generally what we're doing is standing back and getting ahead of it," McCauley said.

There are 19 wildfire service firefighters working the blaze today with crews from local fire departments.

There is also one structural protection unit, four helicopters and 34 heavy equipment units at the White Rock Lake wildfire.

The wildfire service plans to re-evaluate each day for opportunities for air tanker support, which has been a challenge due to windy conditions.

While Douglas Lake Road remains closed to the public, ground crews will be working to ensure the road is safe for the wildfire service to access.

Go here to view evacuation status updates from the Thompson Nicola Regional District.

— This story was updated at 1:26 p.m., July 23, 2021, with new information from B.C. Wildfire Service.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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