Fire situation improving

Whiteswan Provincial Park re-opened; most travel restrictions lifted; proactive burning begins on White Complex fires

  • Aug. 19, 2014 9:00 a.m.

Camping season is officially back on. Not only has the fire ban been lifted throughout the Southeast Fire Zone, but access to one of the areas most popular campsites, Whiteswan Provincial Park, is now open.

With several days of rain and cooler temperatures giving fire crews an opportunity to make progress on many fires in the area, most travel restrictions have been lifted as well.

The group of fires known as the White Complex near Canal Flats are still getting plenty of attention, however.

Jordan Turner, Fire Information Officer with the Southeast Fire Centre, says that while many areas of the East Kootenay received substantial rain, that was not so much the case with the White Complex.

“That area didn’t get as much rain, but it did get some, which was  a great improvement,” he said.

There are currently seven lightning caused fires burning in the White Complex.

As of Monday morning, they are:

• The White Tail Brook Fire, 8 km east of Canal Flats, is approximately 2,000 hectares and is 70 per cent contained.

• The Whiteswan Lake Fire, adjacent to the south edge of Whiteswan Lake, is approximately five hectares and 100 per cent contained.

• The White Rock Fire, two km east of the White River, is approximately 1,000 hectares and 60 per cent per cent contained.

• The Shark Tooth Mountain Fire, 17 km southeast of Canal Flats, is approximately 130 hectares and not contained.

• The East White Tail Fire, 1.5 km southeast of Munroe Lake, is approximately 300 hectares and 50 per cent contained.

• The East White River Fire, 4 km northwest of Munroe Lake, is approximately 550 hectares and is 50 per cent contained.

• The Little Elk Creek Fire, 30km east of Invermere, is approximately 240 hectares and is 25 per cent contained.

“There are 156 firefighters, five pieces of heavy equipment and four helicopters working in this complex,” Turner said.

On Monday, August 18, crews began what is called proactive burning around these fires. Residents were warned that there would be visible columns of smoke as the burns began.

“We want to contain these fires,” Turner said. “That is the purpose of the burn-off. The hope is to burn off areas and guide the  fires to control lines at the valley bottoms so there is no opportunity for them to grow.”

No communities or structures are threatened by these fires.

The Southeast Fire Centre would like to remind aircraft operators that when smoke or flame are identified in a wildland area the surrounding airspace (over a forest fire area, or over any area that is located within five nautical miles of a forest fire, at an altitude of less than 915 metres or 3,000 feet above ground level) automatically becomes flight restricted under the authority of Section 601.15 of the Canadian Aviation Regulation.

Almost all area restrictions have been lifted.

The following forest service roads are now open:

•  The main Whiteswan Forest Service Road from Highway 93/95 junction to the 32-km marker.

• The entire Kootenay Forest Service Road.

•  The entire White-Rock Forest Service Road.

• Access roads leading to Whiteswan Provincial Park and Lussier Hot Springs are now open, and the park will re-opened on Monday.

However, access to the White River Forest Service Road via the Whiteswan Forest Service Road will be closed past the 32-km marker to the general public due to fire fighting activities in the area.

An area restriction put in place northwest of Elkford continues.

This includes the entire East Fork of the White River Forest Service Road (FSR) from approximately 46.0 km to Munroe Lake; the Bull River FSR south to approximately 95 km and the entire Crown land portion of the Crossing Creek Trail east to Round Prairie.

Although the fire danger has dropped in most of Southeast British Columbia, it remains “Moderate” to “High” in the areas surrounding the White Complex. The Southeast Fire Centre is urging the public to be extra cautious with campfires in the backcountry.