Larry Tooze captured images of the lightning storm over Marysville on Monday night

Larry Tooze captured images of the lightning storm over Marysville on Monday night

Season of wildfire

No communities are threatened, but there are more than a dozen wildfires burning in the East Kootenay’s central region

Thunderstorms over the long weekend have led to a cluster of new fires around Cranbrook and Kimberley.

As of Tuesday lunchtime, the Wildfire Management Branch was reporting 14 fires in the area between Creston and Fernie, Koocanusa and Canal Flats.

The most significant fire remains the Whitetail Brook fire, burning 10 kilometres east of Canal Flats. Now 1,550 hectares in size, firefighters have managed to contain 40 per cent of the fire, which started as a result of lightning on Sunday, July 27.

A Type 2 incident team is now in control of the fire, which is burning in a northeasterly direction, away from Canal Flats and the highway.

There are 110 firefighters, six helicopters and 13 pieces of heavy equipment working on the fire.

In the meantime, a wildfire just east of Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park has grown to 650 hectares in size. The lightning caused fire started on July 30.

The two fires have resulted in an area closure put in place last week to protect the safety of firefighters as well as the public.

Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park is closed until further notice, as is access to Top of the World Provincial Park.

The main Whiteswan Forest Service Road from Highway 93/95 junction to the 32 kilometre marker is closed, as is the main Kootenay Forest Service Road from the 3 kilometre marker to 34.5 kilometres (White Rock Forest Service Road and Kootenay Forest Service Road junction). The entire White Rock Forest Service Road is also closed. What’s more, Kootenay River users will also not be able to access areas included in this restriction.

A 10-hectare wildfire at Kikomun Creek near Koocanusa is now 100 per cent contained and in the mop-up stage.

On the opposite shore of Koocanusa, a spot fire was detected on August 3 west of Koocanusa near the U.S. border.

Closer to Cranbrook, there is an 11 hectare fire burning in Tanglefoot Creek, behind Fisher Peak. It was detected on August 1 and was caused by lightning. The Southeast Fire Centre is monitoring the fire, which is in a very remote area.

West of Kimberley and Cranbrook, there are five fires. The largest is a 30 hectare fire at White Boar Lake. There are another three small fires at Perry Creek, Meachen Creek, Mallandaine Creek and St. Mary Lake, all less than a hectare in size. The fires are also remote, but being monitored by fire crews. North of Kimberley, there is a spot fire at Tata Creek, and there is a one hectare fire at McGuinty Lake, eight kilometres east of Kimberley.

“In the Kimberley and Cranbrook area they are mostly smaller fires and no communities or structures are at risk,” said Fanny Bernard, fire information officer.

All of the fires burning around Cranbrook and Kimberley have been caused by lightning, with no human-caused fires reported despite the number of people recreating in the backcountry over the August long weekend.

Still, the Southeast Fire Centre wants to focus its attention on the large number of lightning-caused fires it is fighting, so a campfire ban came into effect yesterday, Tuesday, August 5 at 1 p.m.

Until further notice, there is a prohibition on:

• campfires

• the burning of any waste, slash or other materials

• stubble or grass fires of any size

• the use of burning barrels

• the use of fireworks, sky lanterns, tiki torches and outdoor fire pits

The prohibition does not apply to cooking stoves that use gas, propane or briquettes, or to a portable campfire apparatus with a CSA or ULC rating that uses briquettes, liquid or gaseous fuel, so long as the height of the flame is less than 15 centimetres.

Anyone found in violation of a fire prohibition, including campfires, may be issued a ticket for up to $345. Anyone who causes a wildfire through arson or recklessness may be fined up to $1 million, spend up to three years in prison and be held accountable for associated firefighting costs.

To report a wildfire or unattended campfire, phone 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on most cellular networks.

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