The “Island-Pond” fire, burning 13 kilometres south of Canal Flats, between there and Skookumchuck was caused when a tree hit a power line, metres away from the highway, on Sunday.
When the power line fell, it sent sparks flying which resulted in a grass fire that — because of hot, dry conditions — didn’t take long to spread.
Helicopters and ground crews were immediately deployed, according to John Boivin, fire information officer for the Southeast Fire Centre.
The fire is affecting traffic on Highway 93 and Highway 95 in both directions, reducing the roads to single lane alternating traffic.
Boivin said crews worked on it for most of Sunday night to create fire breaks in order to control it and adjust its direction.
“They created almost three kilometres of fire break in one night, pretty amazing work,” Boivin said. “And then they worked up to different existing road lines that could also act as fire breaks. So the fire is being actioned very intensely by our crews, we’re just continuing to work on it today.”
It had grown to 150 hectares as of Monday afternoon.
Boivin said the fire will also be producing a great deal of smoke, and with the wind changing much of that smoke could come down from the valley into the Cranbrook area.
The fire rating remains high to extreme everywhere in the southern and south east parts of the province.
“The Cranbrook zone is among the driest areas in that very dry area,” Boivin said. “Fire danger levels are very high and the fire indexes that we rely on all indicate the fires take off on you very quickly. It just underscores how people have to be really careful with fire, be really careful with cigarettes and things like that — fire can get away from you so fast in these conditions.”
The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) issued a precautionary evacuation alert for 51 properties in the Island Pond / Premier Lake area on Monday afternoon.
It is an evacuation alert, not an evacuation order, which are two different things, according to Information Officer Loree Duczek.
“An evacuation alert informs residents of the threat of a potential or impending danger. It is intended to give people time to gather things and prepare themselves so that they are ready to go should the situation worsen and an Evacuation Order be issued.
“We encourage people within the evacuation alert area to put together important papers (like insurance papers), medications, valuables, supplies for children and pets, and other important items so that in the event things progress and they are asked to evacuate, they are ready to go.”
In addition to the residential properties, the Provincial Campground at Premier Lake is included in the evacuation alert area.
“If people plan to move RV trailers or boats, the alert stage is the time to do that. If an evacuation order is issued, there is no time to allow that to happen.”
“We need to stress that at this time, we have only issued an alert and it is a great time to take steps to be prepared.”
An information line has been set up at 250-426-2188 or toll free 1-855-346-2188. For more information on the stages of evacuation and tips on how to prepare in the event of emergencies, visit www.rdek.bc.ca.
Also stay tuned to the Townsman website at www.cranbrooktownsman for rolling wildfire updates.