9 p.m. update: The Elephant Hill fire saw continued activity, but no significant growth today, says Fire Information Officer Claire Allen.
“Again, winds are working in our favour today which helps explain not too much growth but still continued activity.”
Through the day today Allen says crews worked to get containment lines in place, assisted by bucketing helicopters and air tankers when the smoke cleared enough for them to fly.
The fire burned at around a rank three level, which Allen says is open surface flame as well as candling and torching trees.
“Those tankers worked around the clock both off of Green Lake and in the Sheridan Lake area, bucketing down on water as well with helicopters, to cool the fire’s behaviour along the north flank in order for crews and heavy equipment to get containment lines put in place,” she says.
“The fire was active at the head of the fire where the skimmer aircraft were working really was able to beat the fire down to about rank two, which is open surface flame, but given how dry things are, the water that we are applying to the fire dries out quite quickly. So, doing our best to beat it down as well can but it really is proving quite a challenge with the hot temperatures as well as how dry multiple layers of soil are.”
She says crews are working hard in the Tin Cup area to put in containment lines, while also doing direct attack on the Mount Jim area.
“We did have some crews that did planned ignitions once the wind s were working in favourable conditions to secure containment lines in the Jim Lake area,” she says.
She says crews on the north west flank are moving heavy equipment towards Jack Frost Lake.
“We do have those heavy equipment crews working overnight in order to get those heavy equipment lines in place and then crews following that as soon as we have first light in the morning. Then [when] we can get our crews fed and briefed they’ll be heading out there just to secure those lines as best we can.”
Crews, once on the line, will be establishing pump systems and hose line as they are able, as well as looking to do planned ignitions to remove fuel from the fire’s path and anchor that to containment lines in order to secure them, she says.
“Having those planned ignitions really allows those lines to hold better because then the fire wont be as volatile if the wind is pushing it in that direction,” says Allen.
Once the line is in place around Jack Frost Lake, she says crews will push to Sheridan Lake. On the northeast flank, there are crews working from Young Lake along the perimeter line, hoping to tie those containment lines over the north flank before winds are expected to shift.
They are also, she says, working to widen the Sheridan West Forest Service Road in hopes to make that a secure line.
“Given the fact that we are seeing or expecting to see the wind shift beginning in the morning, crews will have to be very strategic and safe and they’ll only do those controlled ignitions if winds are working in our favour and if the humidities and fuel types are advantageous to those objectives,” she says.
The wind event expected for tomorrow is expected to take hold around 9 or 10 a.m. with gusts from the southeast and southwest variable through the morning. It’s expected to blow at 10 or 15 km/h sustained, with some morning gusts around 20 km/h. In the afternoon, the winds are expected to blow predominately from the south west with gusts between 30 and 40 km/h.
“That’s definitely going to be a challenge for our wildfire suppression efforts and we’re going to do our best tomorrow to safeguard both the lives of first responders as well as the lives of community members protecting all property and infrastructure as best we can with all available resources.”
Allen says that the expanded evacuation order that went into place today is in anticipation of fire behaviour predicted by numerous experts for tomorrow.
Highway 24, within the evacuation order, is closed, however a detour is available via Horse Lake Road.
“What we do see is quite a significant wind event compounding a week straight of really hot and dry conditions,” she says, adding that temperatures are expected to increase and relative humidities are low.
“When we look at the forecast for tomorrow there could be significant fire behaviour on that northern flank, were doing everything possible to prepare for that but as its shown through the course of this fire sometimes Mother Nature just is uncontrolled and this is a wildfire so we are doing our best to safeguard life and property and that includes moving folks that are at the front of that fire out of the way in case the wildfire evades our suppression efforts,” she says.
“Given how dynamic the situation is we really would like to get folks prepared for significant fire behaviour tomorrow and let them know we are doing everything we can, but it does remain an out of control wildfire so there’s a lot of fluidity with that kind of situation.”
Original story: The Elephant Hill fire is now measured at 186,800 hectares, says Fire Information Officer Claire Allen.
The new number is indicative of the past 72 hours of growth, she says, thanks to better mapping in the area.
Overnight the winds were fairly calm across the fire.
“Definitely still active ground fires overnight, but no dramatic increases in growth,” says Allen.
Throughout the day, Allen says winds are expected to blow from the north west this morning and switch to the north east later this afternoon, with some gusts.
“Those northern winds, especially for our northern flank, do serve to help us to meet our objectives and push the fire back on itself in that push that it’s made towards the north,” she says.
Unfortunately, those conditions are likely to change into tomorrow.
“It looks like things just aren’t really improving in terms of weather so nature is unfortunately not on our side starting “Temperatures incrementally beginning today will be increasing — looks like today will be about mid 20s, tomorrow will be high 20s and then slowly increasing into the low to mid 30s which is incredible for this time of year. While the temperatures of course will provide a challenge in increased fire behaviour the real critical thing that were concerned about moving forward are the winds,” she says.
“A dramatic shift in winds with them coming from the north today, tomorrow expected to come from south which is of course the direction we would prefer it not to come, given in the fact that we do have active and currently uncontained fire front along the north.”
She says gusts of at least up to 40 km/h are expected beginning tomorrow and throughout the weekend.
“What our objectives are today are to lay that critical groundwork with the 24 hours that we have. We have crews and heavy equipment that will be working around the clock and through the overnight period to prepare as much as we can.”
She says crews are working with structural firefighters, heavy equipment and helicopter aviation resources in critical places of the northern fire to get containment lines put in, extinguish hot spots, lay pump and hose systems and get properties secured with sprinkler protection units. Additionally, she says crews are fire smarting homes by moving brush fuels away from homes or moving fuel tanks that have been left to prepare for the wind shift tomorrow.
While air tankers and skimmers were called in during the morning to help lay fire retardant and cool the fire down, Allen says it’s too dangerous for them to fly right now due to smoke.
“Unfortunately north flank of the fire is completely smoked out so it is unsafe for our pilots to fly and they cant see their objectives given the thick smoke in the area, so hoping for a window of opportunity to use those resources to help us get a much as a foothold into that northern flank as we can in anticipation of extreme behaviour tomorrow.”
She says that while it’s difficult to predict exactly, the extreme behaviour and wind shift is expected starting around midday tomorrow.
Currently, the closest portion of the fire remains approximately two kilometers from the closest tip of Sheridan Lake.
Allen says that those on evacuation alert need to be ready to leave within 30 minutes of an evacuation order.
“It’s important to stress that given this anticipated shift in weather we are doing everything we can based on forecast modeling and anticipated or possible fire growth predictions to really take a close look at where current evacuation orders and alerts are to best protect life and property and critical infrastructure,” she says.
“Announcements may be made later this afternoon through the Cariboo Regional District if it is determined that we need to expand those areas to keep folks in the communities safe,” she says.
“It’s definitely a dynamic situation and folks need to be prepared to respond accordingly to be able to keep themselves safe