Siphon Creek wildfire inching closer to Alberta border

BC Wildfire officials anticipate "another challenging day on the fire lines in the Peace" and are working to keep the massive Siphon Creek wildfire from hitting the Alberta border.

In a media briefing Wednesday afternoon, Kevin Skrepnek, chief fire information officer for the BC Wildfire Service, said the Siphon Creek wildfire, burning at an estimated 9,000 hectares, is within six kilometres of the provincial border.

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"There is a high likelihood that is going to hit the border today," Skrepnek said. "B.C. is going to continue to fight it on both sides of the boundary which will hopefully take some pressure off Alberta so they can reallocate some of their resources to situations elsewhere, especially in Fort McMurray."

As of Tuesday morning, there were eight firefighters and three helicopters assigned to the blaze, however, officials say the fire's behaviour and intensity are preventing crews from being able to directly attack the fire.

Crews are instead working to protect structures in the area to the south of the fire, with helicopter bucketing support.

To put the size of the Siphon Creek fire into perspective, it is burning an area roughly the size of more than 16,600 football fields.

Meanwhile, Premier Christy Clark told reporters in Vancouver earlier today the province is focusing on its own wildfire problems and thus unable to send help to Alberta, where wildfires forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray on Tuesday.

“We just don’t have anymore resources so we can assist in Alberta. Our offices have been in touch and what Alberta has asked of us is that we focus on trying to contain the 48 fires in B.C. in the Peace region,” Clark said. “What they really need B.C. to do is make sure we are containing the fires within our own borders, so they don’t jump the border. Alberta firefighters are working as hard as they possibly can and we don’t want to add to their burden.

“Albertans are our closest friends in Canada and we want to be there for them,” Clark said.

Skrepnek told the afternoon briefing: "We're going to assist Alberta however we can."

A request for help from Alberta went out nationally through the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, which was responded to mostly by Ontario, Skrepnek said. 

However, BC Wildfire Services did provide some equipment to Alberta, he said, meeting a request they made late on May 3 for water pumps and hoses.

'CHALLENGING DAY'

This spring's unusually hot and dry weather has been keeping firefighters on their toes. There are currently 85 fires burning across the province, with the vast majority in the Peace Region.

Since April 1, there have been 203 wildfire starts across the province, up from 93 at this time last year. The amount of land that has been scorched is around 20 times above average. Nearly all the fires have been human-caused.

The BC Wildfire Service reports 23,549 hectares burned in total across the province since April 1, with 22,581 hectares of that within the Prince George Fire Centre, which includes the Peace Region. Skrepnik says the 10-year average is 120 fires for the first month of the firefighting season. There have been eight new fire starts in the province since Tuesday. 

Wednesday's sustained gusting winds have continued to pose a challenge for firefighting efforts, Skrepnik said.

"We anticipate today is going to be another challenging day on the fire line in the Peace," he said.

Private firefighting contractors are engaged in the Peace, he confirmed.

In the North Peace, approximately 325 residences are affected by four evacuation alerts that have been issued in the region.

In the southern portion of the province, a shift in weather already has arrived, with some cooler, more seasonal temperatures expected in some areas. However, there is next to no rain in the weather forecast for the Peace Region.

Here is the latest on the seven wildfires of note in the region:

 

Siphon Creek 

Location: Siphon Creek Road; four kilometres south of the Doig River First Nations community 

Discovered: Monday, April 18, 2016

Size: 9,000 hectares (estimated)

Status: Active, 0% contained

Evacuation Alert is in effect.

Resources: 18 firefighters, 3 helicopters. Crews are not able to directly work on the fire due to increased fire behaviour; however, they are working to protect structures to the south of the fire with helicopter bucketing support and burn-out operations. Crews are also working to mop-up the tail end of the fire.

More information: An Incident Management Team is assigned to this incident.

Beatton Airport Road

Location: 50 kilometres north west of Fort St. John

Discovered: Monday, April 18, 2016

Size: 7,035 hectares (estimated)

Status: Active, 85% contained

Evacuation Alert is in effect.

Resources: 86 firefighters, 5 helicopters and BC Hydro personnel are working on the fire today.

More information: Crews continue to make progress along the perimeter of the fire and helicopters are bucketing water on active hot spots. On Tuesday, there was an additional 200 hectares of growth on this incident. Airtankers provided additional support on Tuesday as well.

Carter Road 

Location: 10 kilometres northwest of Hudson's Hope

Discovered: Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Size: 326 hectares (estimated)

Status: Active, 50% contained

Resources: 11 firefighters, 4 helicopters

More information: Crews are making progress on the perimeter of the fire.

Hudson's Hope

Location: 4 kilometres northwest of Hudson's Hope

Discovered: Monday, April 18, 2016

Size: 284 hectares (estimated)

Status: Active, 50% contained

Resources: 15 firefighters. Firefighters are being assisted by heavy equipment.

More information: Crews are making progress on the perimeter of the fire.

Doig River 

Location: 2 kilometres north of the Doig River First Nations community

Discovered: Friday, April 29, 2016

Size: 200 hectares (estimated)

Status: Active, 0% contained

Resources: 10 firefighters, 1 helicopters 

More information: Crews are continuing fire suppression efforts today with water bucketing support from a helicopter. There was no significant growth on the fire on Tuesday.

Clearview

Location: South of Cecil Lake road; 30 kilometres east of Fort St. John

Discovered: Saturday, April 30, 2016

Size: 48 hectares (estimated)

Status: Active, 95% contained

Evacuation Alert is in effect.

Resources: 26 firefighters, 1 helicopters, 4 heavy equipment. These resources are working on this incident and the Voight Creek fire.

More information: Ground crews are continuing fire suppression efforts with support from a helicopter and heavy equipment.

Voight Creek

Location: South of Cecil Lake Road; 30 kilometres east of Fort St. John 

Discovered: Saturday, April 30, 2016

Size: 31 hectares (estimated)

Status: Active, 95% contained

Evacuation Alert is in effect.

Resources: 26 firefighters, 1 helicopters, 4 heavy equipment. These resources are working on this incident and the Clearview fire.

More information: There was about one hectare of additional growth on the fire on Tuesday. Ground crews are continuing fire suppression efforts with support from a helicopter and heavy equipment.

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