The Elephant Hill fire as seen last week from Lone Butte. Tara Sprickerhoff photo.

Sept 6: Elephant Hill fire challenges crews today

“There were lots of gusts of wind and Mother Nature reminding us that it is hot and dry”

9:55 p.m. update: The Elephant Hill fire was really active today, says Fire Information Officer Noelle Kekula.

“There were lots of gusts of wind and Mother Nature reminding us that it is hot and dry,” she says.

The fire broke guards in a few places today, however, it is not currently making a big run again, she says.

“It breached the control lines, but crews were able to get on all of them quickly today and action them and we had support and that’s why we’ve got night patrols working on areas where they prioritized,” she says.

“On that north flank, with the shift and that increase in wind, it challenged crews today.”

She says that throughout the day crews and heavy equipment were working on the fire, and later in the day air support was able to action it.

Due to the long days, structural protection units were recently moved down to 12 hour days says Kekula.

Today, she says, because of challenges on the fire, the structural protection units worked 14-hour shifts.

Near Brigade Creek and east of Hihium Lake she says the fire continues to be active but saw less smoke on the fire.

“They were able to use more air support and a bit of hand ignitions to get some guarding done,” she says.

At Young Lake, where she says structural protection units are also working, there is activity she says, however that activity is away from properties.

“Hihium and Young Lakes are used as a geographic location. But if you want to say Young and Hihium proper, crews are just in there mopping up hotspots and there is very little activity in and among the properties and lake itself. It’s quite black in there from my understanding.”

Today was a transition day on the northern side of the fire, she says.

The Incident Command Post has officially moved from Clinton to 99 Mile.

“That was to reduce travel times. The camp at Big Sky remains so that the crews on the eastern division minimize their travel time as well.”

Original story: The Elephant Fire has had a small excursion in the Tin Cup Lake area, says Fire Information Officer Noelle Kekula.

“It is not a result of the burns that we did a couple days ago,” she stresses. “It was just a shift in the winds. It’s in the area but a different area of where the planned ignition was.”

She says crews are currently working on securing the excursion.

“Crews are on it, it’s being managed. We know about it and it’s being actioned,” she says.

“We’re working really hard on getting that 500 m line but until we get that secured and get that 500 m, we’re going to continue to see these excursions,” she says.

She says crews have completed machine guards around the north flank of the fire — roughly following the fire perimeter from Green Lake up to Sheridan Lake and then south between Sheridan and Crystal Lake towards Eagan Lake. Lines are built depending on terrain and where the roads are.

Today, she says crews will be shifting their focus is the line from Sheridan south. Crews will be blacklining off of the machine guard to create the 500 m line.

Off the fire line, she says the BC Wildfire Service is starting to see thefts of their equipment.

“RCMP members and COs are going to start bumping up security with patrols so they are going to be out on Sheridan and Green Lake doing patrols,” she says.

Kekula says that crews are working on the fire, even if they are not being seen.

“We have a lot of resources out there. When the ranchers go out there looking for their cattle they are in the part of the fire that has been burnt. That is black. We are not actioning that part of the fire. Where we are focusing our efforts is at the head of the fire or the perimeter of the fire where we feel there is potential for it to grow. The ranchers are not going to see firefighters where they are at.”

She says that wherever structural protection units are, there are crews working.

“If we feel there is an immediate threat we will be on those properties and on that fire 24/7. For the SPU people, those are structural protection firefighters, those are the experts and they know what they are doing.”

As for wildland firefighters, Kekula says they up their operations when fire behaviour increases.

“If we think the fire is going to take a run, if there is a threat, then we go to 24/7 operation. We are always assessing and we are always managing accordingly.”

Elsewhere on the fire, she says that while there is activity to the north and east of Hihium Lake, Hihium Lake proper has been quite quiet. She says things are similar in the Young Lake area, where fire has been around the area, but not in and around the properties there.

The fire camp has also transitioned from Clinton to the 99 Mile snowmobile club site, she says.

The Elephant Hill fire has now been burning for two months.

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