Weekend rain offers short-lived reprieve for wildfire crews in South Okanagan | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Weekend rain offers short-lived reprieve for wildfire crews in South Okanagan

On Aug. 6, favourable wind conditions allowed BC Wildfire Services to execute a 300 hectare planned ignition along the northeast flank of the Thomas Creek fire, which was "really successful," according to BC Wildfire Services spokesperson Mike McCulley.
Image Credit: BC Wildfire Services
August 09, 2021 - 1:05 PM

Sunday’s heavy rainfall offered some relief for emergency crews battling South Okanagan blazes, but it wasn’t long before conditions returned to their dry state.

“It was advantageous,” B.C. Wildfire Service spokesperson Mike McCulley said, adding that precipitation fell on the Thomas Creek and Nk’Mip wildfires, Aug. 8. “But there was not enough precipitation to put a dent in the drought we’re having.”

More rain would have been preferred, but crews were still able to take advantage of the wet conditions, as they “allowed our crews to get in a little closer to the head of the fire,” McCulley said.

The precipitation reduces the fire’s ability to spread by raising the relative humidity.

Fine fuels – things in the forests that are the size of a pencil or smaller – get saturated the most by rainfall. It doesn’t take long for fine fuels to dry out again but for a brief period, crews benefited from a lower speed of spread, he said.

“Things get wet quickly, but then they dry out quickly,” he said.

To ensure there is an adequate amount of personnel and equipment for each battle, McCulley said his team keeps track of weather forecasts to in order to be prepared several days in advance.

At the Thomas Creek wildfire between Penticton and Okanagan Falls, 38 members of the Canadian Armed Forces were assisting B.C. Wildfire last week and that number was increased to 64 today.

“Having them on our team is critical,” McCulley said. “They’ll be working along 48 of our B.C. Wildfire crew members.”

Responders on foot are among the most crucial in the attack, despite all the heavy machinery that helps to suppress wildfires, “ultimately without ground crew we can’t reinforce those guard lines,” he said.

After setting up a guard line to contain the flames in one direction, crews slowly work their way up and around the fire to surround it, McCulley said.

McCulley was happy to report last Friday’s planned ignition at the Thomas Creek Wildfire was “really successful” as the ignition plan “was executed very well.”

He said planned ignitions are one of B.C. Wildfire’s most effective techniques, and that he’s very proud of the ground crews for their performance.

The size of the Thomas Creek wildfire is estimated at 11,755 hectares.

Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park, located just a few kilometres north of Thomas Creek, was closed in July as a precaution. The park has since reopened to the public, and McCulley said crews consider the closest guard line to the park to be a high priority.

READ MORE: Crews fighting fire with fire on South Okanagan blaze

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