Smokey skies. Tara Sprickerhoff photo.

Sept. 7: Crews work around clock on Elephant Hill fire to extinguish excursions

“The good news is they amounted to nothing, really”

While smoke in the area today is preventing air support from getting off the ground, it also means less fire behaviour, says Elephant Hill Fire Information Officer Noelle Kekula.

“The good news when it is smoky like this you don’t really see big fire behaviour,” she says. “When you’ve got this inversion it is keeping the wind out. So it sucks for everybody, but as for the fire behaviour piece it’s a good thing.”

Winds on the fire yesterday did challenge crews yesterday, she says.

“There were excursions experienced throughout the north flank,” she says.

One of those excursions was near Tin Cup Lake and the other was on the head of the fire, somewhere between Green Lake and Sheridan Lake, she says.

“The good news is they amounted to nothing, really,” she says.

“It mostly stayed within control lines. Crews with heavy equipment and with crews on the ground — because of the smoke we weren’t able to use air support — with heavy equipment and people we were able to action them,” she says.

“It’s always challenging us, but we have the heavy equipment right there and the crews, the water hoses and everything, so they put a new guard around it.”

Crews worked overnight on the the fire, she says.

“Heavy equipment has water on them, so they are spraying the lines as well. Then they come in with the crews at night … and they just moped it up and extinguished hot spots,” she says.

“It’s firefighting 101.”

Crews will continue to do the same; without air support due to the smoke, crews will be mopping up and building guards.

Kekula says that, in some cases, crews try to work with the existing fire to create their blackline guards.

“We’re always trying to manipulate the fire, manage the fire, direct the fire, burn it out by getting rid of the fuel, but sometimes the wind picks up and it helps Mother Nature do it instead of us,” she says.

Crews hope to get more accurate mapping on the fire’s growth once the smoke clears. Until then, planes won’t be able to get into the air to map it.

Still, Kekula emphasizes crews are working long shifts and night shifts on the fire.

There is some hope ahead with fall around the corner.

“The weather feels like it is changing. It is starting to change, so hopefully we start seeing some cooler temperatures and maybe some rain and some good recoveries at night.”

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