Smoke from the Elephant Hill fire as seen from 100 Mile House today (Aug. 30). Max Winkelman photo.

Aug. 30: “Still quite active” along northern flank of Elephant Hill fire

“No significant movement on that that I’m aware of at this time”

9 p.m. update: “Winds were definitely challenging today and variable so we definitely saw that finger of the fire that moved out of the containment line last night towards Jack Frost Lake, that was still active today and admitting a significant amount of smoke in the area,” says Elephant Hill Fire Information Officer Claire Allen.

“No significant movement on that that I’m aware of at this time, though given significant winds today it’s still quite active,” she says, adding that BC Wildfire is still working to get the fire perimeter due to significant amounts of smoke in the most active parts of the fire.

The fire also saw significant activity across the northern flank, she says, as well as to the south east near Hihium Lake, although she says the Jack Frost finger remains the only portion to have jumped containment lines to the best of her knowledge.

Fire ranks ranged across the fire, from rank one in the lower parts to rank four with some pockets of rank five in the north, Allen says.

“Winds did an interesting thing today where they were primarily coming from the southwest at the beginning part of the day and then they switched and in that area we are now seeing them come from the west as well north west. So definitely the fire is being pushed around in different areas depending on where in the fire you are looking. We are also getting southerlies coming up from the bottom part of the fire and, those westerlies are funneling through the Loon Lake valley and affecting the other parts of the fire so that’s where the eastern flank has become more active as well.”

Night shift crews are now out on the fire line, she says, teamed up with structural firefighters.

“They’ll be out making sure the fire is constantly monitored and any direct attack that they can do at this hour is conducted in order to protect any properties that are being encouraged on by evening activities for fire.”

Otherwise, she says, contingency lines in the north east are still in place.

“Still definitely providing a back up were we to need it but the fire has not moved to that point yet. So, while we did have a bit of a challenge with the contingency lines along the north flank certainly with the growth that we saw last night, a lot of that hard work that crews put in is still effective and still holding at this time.”

While Allen says the day was challenging in terms of wind, they had all available resources responding.

“The water skimmers and air tankers were working around the clock. They got up in the air as soon as they could be briefed and fueled this morning. They were working off of Green Lake the entire [of] today, particularly targeting the area to the south of Green Lake as well as to the east of Watch Lake and those are areas that we did see significant fire behaviour,” she says. “But the skimmers were working just as fast as they could get water and fuel and hitting their targets and we were successful in getting bucketing ships, so those are the helicopters with bucketing apparatuses as well in the area. It was a really busy day in terms of air space but no safety issues with that regard. Very busy radio in terms of air check in and dispatching but everything went safely in that regard and no safety incidents today, which is fantastic given the level of fire behaviour we are seeing, the challenging topography, as well as just the number of individuals we have working in this area.”

4 p.m. update: Crews and operations personnel are in the field assessing all the growth, says Fire Information Officer Claire Allen.

“They are in conversation with our plans folks who handle changes to evacuation orders and alerts based on trigger points we have predetermined,” she says.

“It’s definitely active in the areas along the north flank and on that north west side the fire is burning in the vicinity of Mount Jim but in terms of other growth areas of the fire that’s all I have for now”

She says the “full array” of water skimmers are working off of Green Lake to address the areas of the fire to the east of Watch Lake and in the Mount Jim area.

The fire behaviour is challenging due to the winds, she says.

Additionally, the Office of the Fire Commissioner has assigned 20 fire engines with four structural firefighters each and 10 structural water tenders with two personnel each to the area, she says.

“They will be assigned to structural protection throughout that north area of the fire at this time.”

Original story: The Elephant Hill fire made a nine kilometre run from just south of Little Green Lake to approximately just south of Jack Frost Lake last night, says Fire Information Officer Claire Allen.

“We definitely were expecting an increase in fire behaviour just given the multiple days of sustained hot weather and we were anticipating some winds. What were predicting was 15 to 20 km/h which are substantial winds but are no means incredible volatile. Unfortunately, just due to unexpected weather patters what we actually got were 15 to 25 km/h sustained overnight with gusts of 35 to 40 km/h along the northern part of the fire,” she says.

The growth in the fire prompted recommendations to the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) for evacuations in the Lake of the Woods area and tactical evacuations were undertaken by RCMP members east of Watch Lake for properties in danger from the fire.

Allen says the BC Wildfire Service is in conversation with the CRD to further recommend some changes to evacuation alert and order areas “in order to keep life and property protected.”

Related: New evacuation order south of Highway 24

Allen says sustained winds through the night are quite rare and prevented an increase in relative humidity, which generally serves to calm fire behaviour.

“Things stayed quite dry and quite windy and in turn quite volatile in terms of fire behaviour overnight.”

Allen says BC Wildfire crews teamed up with the North Green Lake and South Green Lake fire departments to run night operations.

“What they do is ensure there is 24-hour coverage on the fire to see where it is moving and do any kind of direct attack and structural protection if necessary.”

Allen says that currently, she has not received any reports of structural impact in the area.

“Today, we have the full array of crews assigned to this incident working to protect life and property and contain the fire as we are able to so. So, all available resources are responding and that includes air tankers and helicopter bucketing and we have requested additional crews through the Office of the Fire Commissioner — that’s our connection to the structural fire fighting world — we have requested additional crews to both have more resources to set up structural fire protection as required but beyond that more crews that are trained for structural incidents to respond in a more direct attack of structural protection method as is neccessary.”

Allen says that winds are forecast to continue to be gusty throughout the day today, with a wind shift expected to change winds blowing south back towards the north and northwest this evening “which may be advantageous pushing fire back to itself.”

“The thing we will need to be very careful of is that interim period of when the winds are shifting from the south to the north,” says Allen. “Because right now we have seen the fire grow to the north but nothing lateral to the east or the west. We’re going to be very cautious and watch our wind speeds quite carefully and respond appropriately with any resources.”

While Allen says the majority of containment lines on the fire held yesterday, the fire did break on the northern flank, prompting the run north.

“A lot of folks say ‘Why weren’t the containment lines successful?’ When we have fire behaviour that is significant like that we’ll have fire spotting kilometers ahead or 500 m ahead, so in no sense would any containment line, unless we were clear cutting a kilometer of forest, in no way is a containment line going to be successful in that regard. When fire behaviour like that starts occurring, the best we can do is get the crews moved out and heavy equipment moved out from ahead of it in terms of safety and then regroup and do direct attack as necessary which is what we are doing today and what we had crews doing last night in order to monitor and respond appropriately to the fire.”

“Today is going to be another challenging day given the winds that we have forecast, so of course, keeping the communities protected, keeping properties and lives protected will remain our number one priority during what seems like another windy day forecast ahead of us.”

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