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Fire crews work to contain flames north of Sparwood

Dry weather and high temperatures led to an increase in fire activity on Wednesday
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Jim Howard photo

UPDATED: Aug. 3 at 3:00 p.m.

Dry weather and high temperatures has led to an increase in fire activity in Sparwood.

Weekend thunderstorms brought much-needed rain and temporarily reduced the blaze, but flames are once again gaining momentum, aided by the wind gusts that blew through the region earlier this week, and persistent mid-30s temperatures.

The fire size has increased by 68 points since Monday, up to 448 hectares, but B.C Wildfire Services stated on their website that some of Wednesday’s fire growth was expected due to planed hand ignitions. Crews began lighting small-scale hand fires in a 26-hectare area north of Sparwood on Tuesday to help anchor the wildfire to the control lines. Control lines are dirt paths that have been cleared of all fuel.

Flames grew to rank four on a six-point scale during planned ignitions, but dropped back down to rank three afterwards. Ranks three indicates a moderately vigorous surface fire.

A hand ignition crew will work together with aerial resources along the eastern flank, pending ideal weather and site conditions. B.C Wildfire Service states this may cause an increase in smoke and ash.

Firefighters are continuing to expand their network of control lines. They’re connecting lines to a slide path in the north to contain fire growth. Last week, the fire began to spread north along the slope into the Matevic Draw, while southward progression remained minimal.

According to the B.C. Wildfire Service website, on Thursday there were 21 wildfire crew members, 57 structure protection crew members and six helicopters responding to the blaze.

B.C Wildfire Service has instated an area restriction order near the fire to prevent public access to the team’s work site. This area extends from Mt. Terrion and Nordstrom Creek in the north and continues to McCool Creek in the south. It expands westward towards Mt. Kuleski and eastward to Matevic Rd in Sparwood. The restriction will remain in place until 1 p.m. on Sept. 30, unless it is rescinded earlier.

It has also established a command post at the Sparwood Community Centre, which was hosting approximately 125 workers as of last week.

An evacuation alert for residents living on upper and lower Matevic Rd. and in Sparwood Heights remains in place. Locals living in these areas must prepare to leave their properties should the alert change to an evacuation order. The evacuation alert currently stops at Sparwood Heights Dr. and does not include Whiskey Jack Dr.

According to Sparwood mayor David Wilks, there are approximately 400 homes on evacuation alert. Forty volunteers are going door-to-door in the affected area to deliver news of the alert.

Crews have been working this week to install sprinklers on homes and lay down water lines in the alert area.

Residents should have a bag packed and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice with essential items like a government-based ID, medications, money, clothing, personal care items, financial documents, valuables and keepsakes. Each household should have a designated meeting point outside the evacuation area and everyone living at the residence should be registered through the provincial Evacuee Registration and Assistance Tool at ess.gov.bc.ca. Pets and livestock should be moved to a safe area.


@gfrans15
newsroom@thefreepress.ca

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About the Author: Gillian Francis

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