While the Skutz Falls Fire is still considered active as of Tuesday morning, crews have it 100 per cent contained according to the Coastal Fire Centre Fire.
Fire Information Officer Donna MacPherson did note, however, that a second fire was discovered along the Copper Canyon Mainline (Hill 60) on Aug. 2. That one is not an offshoot of the Skutz Falls fire, MacPherson stressed, but a second, completely separate human-caused fire.
The blaze, just seven kilometres northeast of the Skutz Falls fire, has been mapped at seven hectares in size. It was hard to map at first because smoke was heavy in the area. It made its way down to the Duncan area, worrying some residents that the Skutz Falls fire had spread.
“The Skutz Falls fire has stayed stable,” MacPherson said. “It was burning a little bit more actively yesterday [Monday] afternoon but it was in the middle of the fire. The perimeter didn’t move at all so that’s good news.”
The Copper Canyon fire was 50 per cent contained as of Tuesday morning and a helicopter, three water tenders, and one piece of heavy equipment joined a crew of 33 firefighters on the ground to fight it, MacPherson said.
“They’ve been working pretty hard on it,” she added.
Unlike the Skutz Falls fire, which is burning up a hill, the Copper Canyon one is burning at the top of a hill, which is helpful MacPherson explained.
“It has a tendency not to move as opposed to being at the bottom of the hill when it has a tendency to go up it,” she said.
Having resources in the area working the Skutz fire was also fortunate.
“We watch the weather pretty carefully and that gives us an indication of how quickly a fire could grow,” MacPherson said. “It’s not like we were robbing one or the other, we just had a lot of resources around.”
Once the fires are out, attention will turn more heavily on finding the causes and possibly prosecuting those responsible.
“We do our best to try to identify whoever did it,” MacPherson said. “Our first focus always is on the fire.”
She said often the fire’s origin is in the middle of the fire but crews work from the perimeter inward so while contained, the root takes a while to get to.
“At some point we would be able to make our way back into the fire and see if there’s any evidence that we could pursue.”
Sometimes there’s not much to work with, but other times there’s more. A cigarette butt or campfire, for example, could be found and that would be the end of it, MacPherson explained. But other times there’s more evidence found and that would prompt a more detailed investigation.
“If there’s something there where we think we could pursue a criminal charge, at that point we might involve other investigators and at that point it would be a much more stringent investigation than what our [internal] crews can do,” she said.
Despite wild speculation online about the cause of the Skutz Falls fire, MacPherson did not reveal the source.
“There’s an example of one that’s going to a more significant investigation,” she said. “Once it gets into that then no, we can’t comment.”