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Wildfire burns near Whitewater ski area

Air tankers have been working on the Clearwater Creek fire, near Ymir Mountain. It stands at at 17.2 hectares. - Courtesy Kootenay Lake initial attack crew leader Billy Stevens
Air tankers have been working on the Clearwater Creek fire, near Ymir Mountain. It stands at at 17.2 hectares.
— image credit: Courtesy Kootenay Lake initial attack crew leader Billy Stevens

The Southeast Fire Centre says 57 new forest fires have been sparked since Thursday, the largest of which in West Kootenay stands at 17.2 hectares and is just outside the Whitewater ski area.

None of the fires threaten homes or other structures. All but two were lightning-caused.

“We had quite a few starts from the lightning through the area last night,” information officer Jordan Turner said Sunday. “Because we didn’t have a lot of rain with these storms we’re expecting to discover more starts today and over the next week. There’s also the possibility of more lightning today.”

• The Clearwater Creek fire, near Whitewater, is 8.6 km east of the Salmo River, not far from the base of Ymir Mountain. It has not grown since yesterday.

Turner said containment efforts are succeeding, and it’s expected to be under control today.

• Air tankers are working on a three small fires to the east on Mt. McGregor, about 6 km east of downtown Salmo. Each is about half a hectare. In several instances throughout the area, lightning has caused groups of three or four fires.

• Air tankers are also trying to put out three fires burning up the Woodbury Creek drainage, just outside Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. The largest of these is about nine hectares, while the other two are just over one hectare apiece. Turner said they are “very visible” to anyone going into the park via Woodbury, but crews are reported to be making good progress.

• A fire near Fennell Creek, about 8 km east of Silverton, is estimated at seven hectares, and is visible from the trail to Idaho Peak. Although crews were working on it, Turner said they pulled out “because it’s quite dangerous terrain. There were issues with steep slopes.” Operations officers are assessing other options.

• Three fires have been spotted in the last couple of days near Deer Creek along Lower Arrow Lake. The largest is 2.5 hectares while the other two are 1.2 hectares and less than one hectare.

“With all the fires, our first priority is any that are close to communities or structures, but right now there aren’t any,” Turner said. However, those fires nearer to populated areas “we’re hitting first with crews and air support, so we can make sure they don’t become an issue.”

Turner said with further hot, dry weather expected, you’re asked to keep an eye out for further fire starts, which might just be smouldering now. The hotline is 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on your cell. With many new fires this weekend, the line has been kept busy. Turner said they appreciate all reports, even when there are multiple calls on the same fire.

Fire activity in East Kootenay is much busier than in the west, with a fire near Canal Flats having grown to 1,000 hectares. Turner said contract crews have been brought in who are “helping greatly” with fires once in the patrol/mop up phase.

Crews from the Coastal Fire Centre are also expected to arrive in the Kootenay Lake zone within the next week to help.

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