White Rock Lake wildfire: Planned ignition delayed because of rain

Smoke rises from the White Rock Lake wildfire on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. Gary Criss

A massive planned burn for the White Rock Lake wildfire has been delayed.

On Saturday, the BC Wildfire Service said due to recent rainfall in the Six Mile Creek area, conditions aren’t favourable to ignite the 3,000-hectare burn.

BC Wildfire did not have an exact amount of how much rain fell, but said overall it was light, ranging between one and five millimetres. To the south, the Fintry area received five millimetres of rain on Friday afternoon.

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The fire is estimated at 81,362 hectares and is classified as out of control.

On Monday, BC Wildfire announced that it was planning the large-scale ignition along the northeast flank of the blaze, and that the resulting smoke would be highly visible from area communities.

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At the time, BC Wildfire said the ignition could occur as early as Wednesday, weather permitting. However, rain has fallen intermittently throughout the week, delaying the ignition.

Still, on Saturday, BC Wildfire told Global News that since Friday’s rain was light, it was expected to dry out quickly.

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BC Wildfire said a 350-hectare ignition that took place on Tuesday successfully brought the fire’s edge down to workable ground along the northeastern flank.

“Planned ignition operations are critical to achieve containment in areas where the fire perimeter is inoperable and unsafe for ground crews and heavy equipment to work,” BC Wildfire said in its latest fire update.

“The ignition was critical to securing the area east of the larger-scale planned ignition set to occur in the coming week.”

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It also said planned ignitions on Wednesday secured the fire perimeter burning north of Terrace Mountain. The aerial ignitions removed approximately 600 hectares of fuel between the fire’s edge and the pre-established control line.

Further, BC Wildfire says 60 Canadian Armed Forces personnel are arriving and that another 60 will arrive on Sunday to assist with patrol efforts along the west and north flanks of the fire.

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Central Okanagan Emergency Operations (CORE) says conditions remain unchanged for the fire, and that evacuation alerts and orders for North Westside communities within the Regional District of the Central Okanagan remain in place.

On scene battling the blaze are 281 firefighters, 92 structural protection firefighters and seven danger tree assessors, along with 14 helicopters and 40 pieces of heavy equipment.

“North Westside Fire Rescue continues to support all outside agencies, including tree assessments, RDCO water engineering, and support for pets and animals,” added fire chief Alex Van Bruksvoort.

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“The men and women on the ground continue their dedicated work, including throughout the night, looking for and extinguishing hot spots.”

Van Bruksvoort thanked residents for their patience “as we work hard to safeguard the North Westside neighbourhoods so that residents can eventually return home.”

More information about the fire can be found on the BC Wildfire website.

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