Okanagan residents can expect to see a lot of smoke around the White Rock Lake wildfire this week, with a 3,000 hectare planned ignition getting underway on its northeast corner.
“The fire hasn’t been producing a whole lot of smoke in recent days, so no matter where you are, especially in the evening … it will be more smoky,” Forrest Tower, a fire information officer with the BC Wildfire Service said Monday, Aug. 30.
People who live closest to the 81,362-hectare fire will see a massive column of smoke from the centre of the ignition by midday. In some hard-to-reach areas for firefighters, there may be some flames from trees that are candling, but largely, it will be underbrush being burned off.
Tower said the aim of the sizeable burn is to get the fire under control in a way that mimics the way it would naturally progress this time of year if nature was to take its course. The difference is that natural processes could take four to five weeks.
“(This) will burn for the next few days, upwards of a week,” Tower said.
“The timeline for this to be completely done is seven to 10 days, in terms of fire to be minimal in the area.”
The first day will be the ignition, then it will take two to three days for mop-up and control. In the next few days, there will be more observation and work.
If all goes according to plan, that’s when BC Wildfire will contact local governments, Tower said, and evacuation orders can be downgraded to alerts.
Today’s ignitions will occur in three phases and are further broken down into three sections, Tower said.
First, a heli-torch machine is used to build heat and create a column within the burn area. This draws the main ignition up and into the column well within established control lines.
Second, a Plastic Sphere Dispenser, where a chemical reaction causes golfball-sized spheres to ignite shortly before reaching the forest floor, will be used to conduct the main ignition in each section. It allows crews to manage fire intensity and utilize terrain to draw fire into the column.
Third, ground crews will ignite from control lines using drip torches to bring fire right to the guards in a controlled manner.
BC Wildfire said a large fuel-free guard has been constructed over the last two weeks by Unit Crews and heavy equipment that will act as the containment line for the ignition. Hose lays are completed along the guards that the ignitions will occur from.
The fire started July 13 and is believed to have been caused by lightning. To get more information as the day goes on, the BC Wildfires of note page will be updated throughout the day.