UPDATE: Wildfire 40 per cent contained

Two wildfires between Grand Forks and Christina Lake were discovered yesterday mid-day.

The Gilpin fire

 

 

As of 3:30 p.m., the Gilplin wildfire is 40 per cent contained. The size still sits at 224 hectares.

Due to this wildfire, the Gilpin Forest Service Road is closed to the public until further notice at the junction of Highway 3 in the south – extending to the junction of the Dan O-Rea Forest Service Road to the north.

There is still NO threat to structures or communities.

A personal note

A police car and tow truck are early warnings of disaster around the corner as I follow up on a tipabout a fire and drive east towards Christina Lake.

I stop to ask what’s going on, and hear from a motorist that his vehicle had backfired and started afire. No, the police officer didn’t know what exactly I’d find if I continued on; continue on I do, and Icome upon a sea of flashing lights as fire engines and other emergency vehicles clustered at the sideof the road. I drive past and pull over where there’s enough shoulder.

A stretch of rolling ground alongside the highway is already burnt but I see flames in the not-too-fardistance. Further along the road is a rocky area with tall trees and it is here the firefighters—GrandForks Fire/Rescue being first on scene—are targetting their efforts against licking flames amidstbillowing acrid smoke. At one point I hear one firefighter say to another, “Fall back! Fall back!”

Traffic is still getting through, albeit slowly. A friend driving by yells out that there’s another fire nearChristina Lake.

Busy taking photos, I finally notice there is no traffic at all—that the highway is closed and I’m in themiddle. I decide to do the respectful thing, the smart thing, and drive east towards a snaking line ofvehicles stopped on the highway. Several hundreds of feet I drive and I pass spots still burning. Thebee hives, known to Highway 3 passersby, are burning. I smell nothing but smoke but someone latersays they smell honey.

The line of waiting vehicles is long and many of us get out to stretch, to walk a bit, hoping for wordon how long the wait will be. Many wonder at the cause of the fire but everyone I speak to isunderstanding of giving BC Wildfire Service and local fire departmnet members the space they need tofight. So we wait.

Spotter planes swoop in to assess the fire, and we’re told water is being dropped on the fire. Anotherhalf-hour later, flaggers allow some traffic to come east and then it’s our turn. A motorcyle makes itthrough ahead of me, but I’m stopped. It will be a while yet, but then alternating traffic is allowedagain.

I’m worried about being short-staffed at work and getting this week’s edition to press; I make it backto the office two hours after I left. The rest of the day is hard work, but nowhere near as hard as thatof a firefighter. I see pictures in my head, all night, of firefighters working the fire. I won’t forgetthem.

~~~

Two wildfires between Grand Forks and Christina Lake were discovered yesterday mid-day.

A total of 64 firefighters, three helicopters, three pieces of heavy equipment and, at one time, four airtankers battling the Gilpin fire, 10 kilometres east of Grand Forks. Discovered yesterday (Tuesday), ithas grown to 224 hectares and is 25 per cent contained as of 9 a.m. this morning.

A smaller fire near Billings stayed at two hectares and is 100 per cent contained.

BC Wildfire Service crews worked with local fire departments to respond to both wildfires. Thesewildfires are not currently threatening any structures or communities, but they are near Highway 3and are highly visible. The highway was temporarily closed yesterday, but soon reopened to single-lane, alternating traffic.

DriveBC reports limited visibility with smoke from Grand Forks to Christina Lake.

“Today crews will be conducting burn-off operations to secure containment lines and working onestablishing containment of the east and west flanks,” reported the Wildfire Service. Precipitation andcooler temperatures are forecasted for the area today.

Christina Lake Fire Rescue Chief Ken Gresley-Jones was in Richmond at a fire chiefs’ convention butwas in constant communication with his deaprtment.

“I do know that there is excellent communication between Grand Forks Fire, Christina Lake Fire, theRDKB and the Forest Service……they had water bombers in the air very quickly,” he said in an email tothe Gazette.

“It is early—a wake-up call,” he added.

The cause of both fires is under investigation, BC Wildfire Service said.