An evacuation alert has been issued for 500 homes in the Ta Ta Creek and Greater Wasa area north of Cranbrook in response to fire growth from the St. Mary’s River wildfire on Saturday.
“Evacuation Alerts and Orders are not issued lightly, and we are urging all residents within the Alert area to take steps now to prepare so that you are ready to go should an Evacuation Order be issued,” said Information Officer Loree Duczek.
Door-to-door notification is underway in the alert area with support from RCMP and Search and Rescue.
As Wasa is a popular vacation area, the RDEK is also asking any residents with a secondary home in the area to make preparations to leave in the event of an evacuation order.
The wildfire, now mapped at over 4,000 hectares, grew in the northwest area near the Kootenay River late Friday, as spot fires ignited on the east side in the Bummer’s Flats area.
Fire crews stayed on scene over night to respond to any further spotting, and air assets have been bucketing as needed.
Daniel Klein, Incident Commander with the BC Wildfire Service provided an update on the fire, particularly that section, during a pre-recorded briefing on Saturday afternoon.
Wildfire growth is challenging a machine line along the LD Ranch Rd to the Kootenay River, said Klein.
“Looking at fire behaviour this [Saturday] morning, there was a slop-over above the LD Ranch Rd,” Klein said. “Crews are in there and they’ve pushed some heavy equipment around that escape to tie it back into some roads and currently that is our area of concern.
“It’s still burning in there but we do have crews in there doing some small scale hand ignitions looking to remove fuels this morning before we have any potential this afternoon for the winds to pick up and increase fire activity.”
As of Saturday morning, there are 232 personnel tasked to the fire, including BC Wildfire Service, contract crews, single resources, and structure protection personnel. That includes a 20-person unit crew that arrived from the United States on Friday, and close to 70 structure protection units with specialized training and equipment to help reduce wildfire risks on properties.
As the RDEK continues to expand evacuation alerts, officials are asking people not to stop alongside Highway 93/95 or to block access points for firefighting vehicles and equipment.
“We are also pleading with the public to avoid pulling over to the side of the highway and blocking access points to watch firefighting efforts,” adds Duczek. “Not only does this create a safety hazard for everyone, it could also potentially create a safety risk for firefighters and slow down firefighting response efforts. Please stay out of these areas, including Bummers Flats, to allow this critical work to happen unimpeded.”
An area restriction is also in place covering access points on the the western and northern flanks of the fire.
A number of evacuation orders and alerts remain in place.
In the ʔaq̓am Community, 52 dwellings are on evacuation order, while nine dwellings are on evacuation alert.
In the RDEK’s jurisdiction, 15 dwellings are on evacuation order in the Woods Corner east area, with over 100 dwellings on alert immediate west, east and north of the wildfire, as well as south on the opposite side of the St. Mary’s River and the east side of the Kootenay River.
Maps of the latest evacuation alert and the fire’s perimeter are below.