Island Pond fire 25 per cent contained

Island Pond fire 25 per cent contained

Crews work overnight building fire guards to contain blaze near Canal Flats.

The Island Pond wildfire continues to hold at 1,150 hectares south of Canal Flats, as BC Wildfire Service crews have contained approximately 25 per cent of the blaze.

Fire Information officer Karlie Shaughnessy says fire guards created by machinery and fire retardant held overnight.

“We did have a significant wind event last [Tuesday] night night, there were gusts of up to 80 kilometres an hour,” she said. “Fortunately the fire guards that were in place held very nicely, so we saw not much escape or limited growth.”

The fire is currently being actioned by 64 personnel, five pieces of heavy equipment, three helicopters and air tankers.

The highway remains open with single-lane alternating traffic, however, anyone travelling to Alberta via Radium should know that the highway to Castle Junction is currently closed (as of Monday evening).

The Island Pond fire flared up over the weekend, after a tree hit a power line on Sunday and sparked a grassfire between Skookumchuk and Canal Flats. Quickly growing to 10 hectares, the fire continued to expand by over 650 hectares by Monday evening.

“It’s due to the wind, obviously, helping the fire grow and the terrain — how dry the forest fuels are,” Shaughnessy said. “We haven’t seen rain for many weeks and the fire danger rating is extreme. All the forest fuels are very volatile right now, so that’s what’s contributed to this fire growing so large.”

Initial attack crews were supported by helicopters and water tankers, however, aircraft collecting water from Premier Lake were running into safety issues because of boaters.

“Yesterday [Tuesday] afternoon, we had our water skimmers pulling water off of Premier Lake and unfortunately had some boaters who weren’t giving them enough room,” said Shaughnessy, “so we would like to remind the public that when these firefighting aircraft such as these air tankers or even helicopters are working on an active wildfire and are utilizing a water source, they need plenty of room to manoeuvre to do their job safely.

“Anyone who tries to get a close-up look at these aircraft present a serious safety risk for air crews, firefighters and anyone else in the area.”

The Regional District of East Kootenay has issued an evacuation alert for 51 properties between Island Pond and the north end of Premier Lake along the provincial campground.

In addition to the Island Pond fire, a 500-hectare blaze near White River is also burning, however, it is in a remote location and is not threatening any structures or communities.

Environment Canada has issued an air quality advisory due to the wildfires burning in British Columbia. Smoke concentrations will vary widely as winds, fire behaviour and temperatures change.