Image of the Cummings Creek wildfire of note, taken by BC Wildfire Service on August 7. (Image courtesy of BC Wildfire Service)

Image of the Cummings Creek wildfire of note, taken by BC Wildfire Service on August 7. (Image courtesy of BC Wildfire Service)

Sparwood gets update on Cummings Creek wildfire activity

The fire is burning aggressively at night, and efforts will be made to slow it from crossing Cummings Creek

The Cummings Creek wildfire of note has been burning since August 3, and as of August 10 is over 50 hectares in size, burning in steep and inoperable terrain 5km west of Sparwood in an area locally known as the ‘Wilson Draw’.

Over 300 people tuned in to listen to the BC Wildfire Service community information session in Sparwood on Tuesday (August 9) evening, with a hundred in person and hundreds more online.

Incident Commander, Scott Rennick gave an update on what the fire was doing, and what was being done to prepare for if it spread across Cummings Creek.

Rennick said that the fire appeared to be burning most aggressively during the night, between 11pm and 4am, when it was burning through thick undergrowth. During warmer conditions in the day it was flaring up to burn trees.

Despite the aggressive burning, the fire is moving slowly, and mostly backing up the hill away from Cummings Creek. The fire was sending debris down the hill towards Cummings Creek.

As of August 10, the fire is not a threat to the community.

Rennick said that the conditions prevented him from putting firefighters on the ground to tackle the fire.

“For us to be able to put anybody on the ground, they’d be below the fire itself with rolling debris.”

He said that efforts would be made to helicopter bucket the fire on its northern flank along Cummings Creek in order to slow it, and try to stop it from crossing the creek.

‘There is a risk here of it coming out,” said Rennick, “If it does cross Cummings Creek it will be an accelerating fire up the hill, and will be a hanging fire above Elk Prairie, and will slowly move down the valley.”

Weather and rainfall conditions over the last few weeks have not been favorable, with more sustained hot weather ahead and chances of relatively drastic changes in temperature that would bring windy conditions. As yet, there hasn’t been much wind pushing the fire in one direction or another.

Rennick said that BC Wildfire Service efforts at the moment were mostly pre-emptive, “just in case we get any wind events.”

There are structure assessment teams working in the valley doing ‘triage’ of the area to assess what work would need to be done to protect structures and homes in the event of the fire moving towards the community. There is also preparation work being done to create better access to firefighters and apparatus towards the Wilson Draw, while assessments are being done on establishing protections between the fire and the community.

“It’s better to be ready and have these systems in place and not use them, than not have them at all,” said Rennick.

The Elk Valley has been hosting fire crews and aparatus for the last few days. Currently there are 150 firefighters based out of Elko, as the fire response team is responsible for three fires of note in the area. There are another 50 based out of Fernie, and there are two 20-person units in Sparwood working on building access routes and continigency lines where safe to do so.

The Cummings Creek fire is affected by an area restriction order, which will be in place until October 15 or until rescinded.

Up-to-date information on the fire can be found on the BC Wildfire Service website, here, and on the RDEK website, here. Social media accounts of the responsible agencies are also regularly updated. Residents are also encouraged to sign up for the regional evacuation alert system through the RDEK.

READ MORE: Cummings Creek wildfire under close watch



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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