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Small wildfire south of Elko ‘being held’ by BC Wildfire Service crews

Conditions drier than normal in the southern East Kootenay as wildfire season gets underway
BC Wildfire Service crews responded to a wildfire south of Elko this past weekend. (BC Wildfire Service file photo)

A small 10-hectare wildfire south of Elko is being held, following a response from BC Wildfire Service firefighters that was discovered on Saturday, May 13.

The fire is suspected to be person-caused from an abandoned campfire but the incident remains under investigation, according to the Southeast Fire Centre.

Four initial attack firefighters, along with 10 members of a unit crew, tackled the blaze, along with assistance from five contractors.

“It’s kind of in a deep duff layer along a floodplain,” said Kirk Verner, a fire information officer with the Southeast Fire Centre.

While BCWS crews were responding to the Elko fire, firefighters with the South Country Fire Departments took action against a small 1.5 hectare grassfire in pasture lands of private property south of Jaffray on the same day. The fire was contained by the end of the day, and there were no injuries, per a RDEK news release.

As wildfires are touching off emergencies in Northern B.C. and Alberta, the East Kootenay has been relatively unscathed, with only 13 fires to date this year.

However, as temperatures heat up across the region, drought conditions are drier than they usually are in the area at above a five-year average for this time of year, particularly in the Elko region, according to the Southeast Fire Centre.

Compounding factors include the fact that precipitation from November to April last winter is 5-20 per cent below normal.

Forecasted temperatures are expected to reach the mid- to high-20 degree C range over the coming days and into the long weekend.

“We’re locked in a strong upper ridge that’s coming from the south and it’s bringing in these unseasonably high temperatures and it is expected to remain in place for most of this week and into the long weekend, so that’s a bit of a concern for us with all of the campers coming out,” Verner said.

As the wildfire season gets underway, the RDEK will be hosting an agricultural wildfire prepardness forum at Fort Steele Heritage Town, in collabaoration with the Kootenay Livestock Association and the East Kootenay FireSmart Program.

“This forum will focus on emergency preparedness for wildfire events as it relates to the agricultural sector. We encourage those who have farms and ranches to attend the event so that they can discuss their wildfire concerns and learn how to plan for these types of emergencies,” asaid Terry Balan, RDEK Wildfire Resiliency Supervisor. “Farm and ranch property often lies in regions that are most vulnerable to wildfire, so it’s important that people make preparations in these high-risk areas.”

The forum will include guest speakers, door prizes, demonstrations, testimonials, as well as discussion on wildfire risk mitigation, animal-related emergencies, and support systems currently available. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

There is no cost for the session, however, registration is required in advance. Please email no later than 12 PM on May 31, 2023.

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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