Alert lifted as wildfire threat eases

The Boundary region has had 136 fires this season, well above the 10-year average of 43.

Some rain and cooler temperatures have reduced the wildfire threats to Grand Forks. It has also pretty much cleared the smoke away from the area.

Residents certainly had a few tense days in the last week as the RDKB’s Emergency Operations Centre issued an evacuation alert for all residents south of the Kettle River and for those in Cascade and Ponderosa areas of Christina Lake. That evacuation alert has since been lifted.

The alert was deemed necessary due to the high winds that threatened to blow burning embers into town causing a threat to residences.

Karlie Shaugnessey of the Southeast Fire Centre said that the increased precipitation has helped reduce the threat from the wildfires. She added that in many cases, some fire crews have been sent home with the reduced threat.

“We’ve been experiencing cooler and wetter conditions and we also have cooler temperatures and more rain in the forecast so that will help decrease the wildfire risk in the region and reduce the fire rating,” she said. “The majority of the Southeast Fire Centre is now in the low fire danger rating with the exception of the very western edge of the Boundary fire zone.”

This year the Southeast Fire Centre has recorded 562 fires in the region totaling 13,920 hectares. The biggest year on record was 2003, which had 644 fires during the same time period totaling 72,036 hectares. The five-year average is 283 fires that burned 4,420 hectares.

The Boundary region has had 136 fires this season, well above the 10-year average of 43.

Stickpin fire

The Stickpin fire in Washington state continues to burn on 5km south of the border. The blaze is an estimated 21,638 hectares and is 20 per cent contained.

The precipitation received as well as the amounts forecasted have greatly reduced the immediate fire activity. Cooler temperatures and rain have played a significant part in helping suppress this fire. Crews have been making great progress towards constructing guards and tying into existing roadways. On Monday they continued with extensive guard building, both by hand and with the help of several pieces of heavy machinery.

There are currently 15 BC Wildfire Service firefighters, eight helicopters and six heavy equipment pieces.

Paulson fire

The Paulson Pass fire, which is located 15km northeast of Christina Lake and west of Highway, is still at 320 hectares and is now 90 per cent contained. Crews are continuing to mop-up on the western and northern flanks. Ten firefighters are on scene.

Lynch Creek

The Lynch Creek fire, which is 25km north of Grand Forks, is at 1,966 hectares and 15 per cent contained. This fire has merged with a nearby fire which was burning in Gladstone Provincial Park increased the amount of hectares. Tuesday crews were continuing to work on containment of the south and west flanks.

The fire is currently not threatening any structures or communities; however, the smoke from this fire is visible to residents in the North Fork region. A public access restriction is in effect immediately for the Gladstone Forest Service Road due to the high fire danger rating and adjacent wildfires. This restriction will remain in force until the public is otherwise notified. Forty-five firefighter personnel are on scene.

Rock Creek

The fire west of Rock Creek is currently at 4,417 hectares and is 100 per cent contained. The change in size is due to more accurate mapping with aerial scan technology. BC Wildfire Service crews along with contract fire crews are continuing to secure and mop up along the fire line perimeter. On Monday a heat scan was completed and identified over 40 hotspots within the fire perimeter. Crews are working to seek and extinguish these hotspots. Where applicable, equipment recovery will commence supported by aerial operations.

Smoke

Trail may have the Smoke Eaters hockey team, but last week Grand Forks residents were the real smoke eaters. In fact, early last week Grand Forks air quality was among the worst in the world. The smoke was so bad the filter on the machine that reads the air quality levels was so clogged, the machine stopped work. At it’s worst, the air quality in town was suspected to be over 350 PM 2.5, which is 15 times the acceptable level (25). The measurement reads the amount of particulate matter (PM) in the air.

Although he did have access to previous Grand Forks air quality readings, Tarek Ayache, air quality meteorologist with the BC Ministry of Environment, said the bad air quality in the Okanagan set records. “This episode has broken records in the Okanagan as far as smoke conservation,” he said. “I expect that’s probably the case for the rest of the southern part of the province. It was 350 at one point. That’s when the monitor went out so it could’ve been higher.”

The air quality in Grand Forks was 25 PM 2.5 on Tuesday.