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Fireguards, weather, hold Battleship and Bearhole Lake fires in check

Bearhole Lake wildfire near Tumbler Ridge now classified as 'under control'
bearhole lake fire sep 16
An aerial view of the Bearhole Lake wildfire near Tumbler Ridge Sept. 16, 2022

Some good news Wednesday on the wildfire front on the two largest blazes burning in the northeast.

While classified as out of control, growth on Battleship Mountain has all-but-stalled according to the latest numbers provided by the B.C. Wildfire Service.

It’s still estimated at just over 302 square kilometres in size.

Controlled back burns, cooler weather, and rain over the last five days have helped to dampen its progress.

“A decrease in activity has allowed our crews to get a handle on the southern and eastern flanks, setting up some guards. Hopefully, that will be completed in the next 24-48 hours,” said fire information officer Taylor Colman.

91 firefighters, two helicopters, and eight pieces of heavy equipment have been tasked to the fire.

“Things are going to take a turn in the weather,” Colman warned.

“The last couple of days have been sunny and warm, so (forest) fuels have dried out. We’ve seen some increased smoke popping up. Nothing, though, like the behaviour we saw a week ago.”

The latest Environment Canada outlook is forecasting a cold front but it could be accompanied by wind gusts of up to 50 kilometres-an-hour Thursday.

However, overnight frost at higher elevations is helping to cool the ground somewhat.

To the southeast, the 6400-plus hectare Bearhole Lake blaze east of Tumbler Ridge has now been upgraded to ‘under control.’

While it continues to burn in some areas and smoulder in others, crews were able to make significant progress with last week’s cooler temperatures and the rain that followed over the long weekend.

“We’re moving into the patrolling and sort of mop up work happening in the field,” said fire information officer Bryan Zandberg.

“Over 40 firefighters are out there, again, today. They’re working the areas outside of the provincial park, so the north and south flank, at this point.”

Infrared scans are also being done each night to determine perimeters and any growth.

The estimated fire size remains at 6,472 hectares, the same figure that’s been used for close to a week.

A restriction order for hikers and back country users remains in place.

Zandberg is optimistic, though, that it might be lifted in the coming days.

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