A prescribed burn two years ago near Koocanusa was key to helping wildfire crews contain a blaze out near the Baynes Lake area.
Conducted in the fall of 2013, the Cutts Pasture Ecosystem Restoration burn aimed to improve wildlife habitat and help protect local communities from the potential of catastrophic wildfires, according to Jordan Turner, a fire information officer with the Southeast Fire Centre.
“The purpose of them, of course, is to reduce fuel loads, and by reducing the fuel loads, a fire that was moving in the same kind of area—like this fire that started very quickly—wouldn’t have the opportunity to spread that quickly through a prescribed burn area,” said Turner.
Crews initiated a burn-off last Monday to fight the fire, starting from the area within the Cutts Pasture burn.
“We use this area as kind of a defensible space in order to fight this fire, so we burned out from that particular area, because we knew that area would be easy to contain or easy to fight fire in as it was in an area that we felt confident that the fire could not spread beyond,” Turner added.
“…So it’s a great example of how these prescribed burns can help in the summer months, even though we do these in the spring and fall and they put up a lot of smoke, these are quite important for not only wildlife habitat, but also to protect the local communities.”
There are currently 47 firefighters and two pieces of heavy equipment working on the Baynes Lake blaze, which is mapped at roughly 117 hectares. All evacuation orders and alerts have been lifted.
“The crews are working on extending and reinforcing the perimeter containment they have in place now and are working to put out any hot spots through the fire’s perimeter,” said Turner. “We’re planning to mop up 100 per cent of hot spots in an area across the river today, but for the rest of the fire, it may take some time.
“…For the most part, we’re just making sure it stays within those containment lines, so we’ll move into the perimeter—it depends on the IC’s [Incident Commander] judgement—but usually 50-100 feet to wet down any hot spots and in the middle of the fire, Mother Nature will put that out.”
While it’s still burning, it’s believed to be a human-cause blaze.
“We do have an investigation underway on this fire to find where it started and how it started,” Turner added. “We believe that because of tracking lightning and we don’t believe that it was a lightning strike at this point in time.”
Up in the Spillimacheen region, a 54-hecatre fire continues to burn with no growth as it is classified as 100 per cent contained. There are 31 firefighters, five pieces of heavy equipment and aerial support working on it.
To date this season, there have been 188 fires in the Southeast Fire Centre. Of that total, 135 have been lightning caused, while 51 were human-caused.
That compares to only 30 total fires at this time last year, with 25 of them being human-caused.
Across the province, there have been 937 fires so far this season, as compared to 439 at this time last year.
With hot and dry conditions forecast through next week and the potential for more thunderstorms, the Southeast Fire Centre is urging the public to be extra cautious in the backcountry. All person-caused fires are preventable and these incidents may affect the ability of firefighting crews to respond to naturally occurring fires.
The BC Wildfire Service appreciates the public’s continued reporting of any smoke or flames that they see. Report a wildfire by calling 1 800 663-5555 or *5555 on your cellphone.