'One extreme to another': Crews work to contain Thompson-Okanagan wildfires in cooler weather | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'One extreme to another': Crews work to contain Thompson-Okanagan wildfires in cooler weather

Firefighters getting water from near Cherry Creek near the Tremont Creek wildfire, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Alfred Ortiz
August 17, 2021 - 5:02 PM

Wildfires were dampened by precipitation across the Thompson-Nicola last night, providing some needed reprieve after a weekend of aggressive wildfire growth.

At the White Rock Lake wildfire, from Sunday afternoon heat and wind to Monday night cool air and rain, the area went from "one extreme to another," according to B.C. Wildfire Service fire information officer Forrest Tower. 

From about 11:30 p.m., Aug. 15, until around 6 a.m. the next day, winds forced extensive growth toward the east, while a "lake effect" of wind forced the blaze northward, risking Okanagan Indian Band properties.

Now measured at roughly 78,190 hectares, the wildfire is expected to be larger as most of the east flank has now reached Okanagan Lake, according to Tower, who presented at an online wildfire situation update arranged by the Thompson Nicola Regional District over Zoom today, Aug. 17.

READ MORE: Okanagan Indian Band working on recovery plan after homes, business destroyed by wildfire

"It spotted from west-southwest of Six Mile Creek, it spotted around two-and-a-half and three kilometres ahead of itself... For anyone familiar with fire behaviour, that is extreme spotting and extreme behaviour. Normally we've gone with fires don't spot longer than two kilometres ahead of themselves in B.C., but our fire behaviour analyst was sitting right in Six Mile and watched it spot across him... to the east of Six Mile Creek," Tower said. "Since then we've obviously had some rain and cooler temperatures that really diminished fire behaviour. So it went from one extreme to another."

On the east and southeast flank of the wildfire, crews are creating and reinforcing machine guards, while the north flanks of the blaze are in mop up.

"With the help of this weather they're feeling confident by end of day today, they'll have containment in behind communities where the fire is on (its) east side," Tower said.

Tower said much of the north perimeters of the White Rock Lake wildfire have seen very minimal growth, especially in the Monte Lake and Paxton Valley areas. Crews remain in the area to patrol as the area is largely in mop up.

Near Vernon and Okanagan Indian Band, the wildfire service currently has a fire guard established near Irish Creek. The objective for ground crews and equipment in that area now is to connect that guard further north, then toward the area of Pinaus Lake.

While crews work to contain the blaze, there is little expectation that it will be extinguished by the end of the summer.

"This is a very large wildfire so to put every square kilometre of it out, what will happen is we'll get into fall and winter and the natural processes of wildfires will take over from there," Tower said.

READ MORE: Most West Kelowna residents evacuated by Mount Law wildfire can return home

At the Tremont Creek wildfire, the perimeters around Logan Lake are being patrolled by wildfire crews after controlled ignitions were completed on either side of the community - north of both Highway 97C and Highway 97D.

Fire information officer Erin Bull said the ignitions were successful, and the wildfire service is expecting to have thermal scanning done in the area so they can "seek and destroy" any remaining hotspots.

The Tremont Creek wildfire is currently estimated to cover 63,699 hectares.

At both wildfires, cooler temperatures and precipitation are allowing wildfire crews to complete some objectives with less aggressive fire behaviour encroaching on their efforts. Incident management teams for both Tremont Creek and White Rock Lake wildfires are starting to discuss changes to established evacuation orders and alerts, but recommendations to send residents home have not yet been made to local governments.

"We're feeling confident in some areas on this fire that we can start making those changes," Tower said.

An evacuation alert for Kamloops neighbourhoods was rescinded today. It was issued on Aug. 15 out of an abundance of caution because of the Tremont Creek wildfire west of the city.

READ MORE: Kamloops man faces charges following Columbia Street grassfire

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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