B.C. Wildfires 2018: Desert-like conditions fuel ‘free-burning’ blaze south of Burns Lake

Fire officials painted an alarming picture Monday night of three huge, raging wildfires racing through an area of central B.C. west of Prince George — one group among hundreds of blazes spreading smoke and flames across the province. 

The officials were at the Grassy Plains School at the Southside of François Lake to speak with people who are defying evacuation orders for the Nadina-Verdun wildfire complex.

Combined, the Nadina Lake, Verdun Mountain and Island Lake fires currently cover more than 1,000 square kilometres.

“It’s dire here right now,” said incident commander Pete Lang to the group of residents, many of whom were angry with the province’s response to the fires in the area. 

A helicopter flies past a large plume of smoke rising from a wildfire near Fraser Lake, B.C., on Aug. 15. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Lang said he hoped the meeting would help dispel rumours and misinformation spread on social media and help residents make an informed decision about what to do. 

Residents in the small community, which lies south of Burns Lake around 230 kilometres west of Prince George, mostly rely on ferry service to get in and out. 

There are 565 fires currently burning across B.C., with 30 of them starting on Tuesday. More than 20,000 people are on evacuation alert or under evacuation order.

Fire crews say the heavy smoke blanketing much of the province has restricted some aircraft fighting the flames.

‘Nothing will be able to save us’

Fire behaviour specialist Dana Hicks made it clear at the meeting that the area around Burns Lake is so dry, the fires so hot, that there isn’t much firefighters can do to quell the flames. 

“These fires will be free burning tomorrow,” Hicks said. “Nothing will be able to save us tomorrow. The fires are going to move.”

Trees killed by the mountain pine beetles that have infested the region for years are drier than plywood that can be bought in home-repair stores, Hicks said.

“The intensity that’s putting off, we can’t put firefighters near it. Water’s no good,” he said.

“From the fuel side of things, everything is able to burn.”

Wildfire fringes the night sky at Fraser Lake, with the northern lights in the background. (Submitted by David Luggi)

Both the Nadina Lake and Verdun Mountain fires have moved about five to seven kilometres a day, Hicks said. The flames can move as quickly as 20 to 30 metres per minute, he warned. 

Hicks told those who decide to stay to keep in place and resist the urge to take off. He said those who die in wildfires most often do so when they’re fleeing. 

“Be safe and make the right decisions,” he said. 

Residents at the meeting questioned how the fires had gotten to this stage. They accused the wildfire service of assigning too few resources.

Rise Johansen, who runs the Takysie Lake Lodge, was at the meeting. She said adrenaline is running high throughout the community and many residents in the small northern community have little trust in authority. Those resisting evacuation are keen to protect their properties and cattle, she said. 

“My sense in the room last night was sheer fear, which is coming out as anger, because everybody is scared,” Johansen said.

Smoke clearing in the Cariboo

The Nadina-Verdun wildfire complex is one of hundreds of wildfires burning across B.C. Much of the province has been blanketed in thick smoke for days. 

In the Cariboo region, smoke is beginning to clear even as haze still blankets other parts of the province.

The Cariboo Regional District says there has been a “dramatic” improvement in air quality over a 24-hour period, although 61 fires are still burning in the area, and the fire danger rating remains extreme or high.

Poor conditions could still return later in the week, but district officials say it’s too early to tell and are not lifting any evacuation alerts.

The region has five evacuation orders in place covering more than 14,000 square kilometres and affecting more than 100 residents.

With files from Yvette Brend and The Canadian Press

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Originally posted 2018-08-21 10:11:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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