Two helicopters were dropping water in tandem around 4 p.m. Monday to try and keep a wildfire west of Osoyoos under control. (Dale Boyd / Osoyoos Times)
By Dale Boyd
Provincial fire crews are setting up for planned ignitions of around 160 hectares Wednesday afternoon to bring the Richter Creek wildfire into a more workable terrain for firefighters.
Burning since midday Monday, the Richter Creek fire has prompted evacuation alerts for 13 Cawston area residences and one residence near the fire on Hwy 3.
“(Firefighters) are going to burn out some of the existing fuel to bring the fire down to a workable area because where it is currently burning isn’t great terrain for crews to work on the ground,” said Nicole Bonnett, fire information officer with BC Wildfire.
The 160 hectares planned ignition will be added to the 400 hectare size estimate. However those numbers are estimates and subject to change.
“We call fires ‘out of control’ until it is anticipated they are not going to grow in size at all. At this point obviously we are going to add 160 hectares and the 400 hectares is the best tracked estimate,” Bonnett said. “Until we get an on-the-ground (size estimate) there’s always a little bit of room for fluctuation, but obviously response to the fire is more important than getting a perfectly accurate track.”
Around 62 firefighters were on the ground Wednesday morning, not including additional operational staff, along with two helicopters and an air tanker working to reinforce the guard (a barrier of non-flammable soil) prior to the planned ignition.
“If the weather conditions change the burn of planned ignitions won’t go ahead, we always monitor those things, but at this point we are anticipating conditions will hold,” Bonnett said.
Heavy equipment and additional ground personnel arrived Tuesday evening and created approximately three kilometres of guard around the fire.An incident management team is transitioned to take over operations for the fire Wednesday.
Fire started by car
The blaze which bloomed from 15 to 400 hectares since it started on Monday may have been started by a vehicle fire according to information from BC Wildfire. RCMP confirmed an investigation was open in conjunction with provincial fire inspectors.
One man, who declined to provide his name to the Osoyoos Times or be interviewed on the record, said he witnessed RCMP talking to the driver of a vehicle towing an RV which may have skidded on Hwy 3 near the fire Monday afternoon.