West Kootenay wildfire season kicks off late, but with vigour
July 29, 2022 By John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice
A series of storm cells moving across the West Kootenay late last week sparked the first outbreak of forest fires in the region this year — and with a week of hot, dry weather forecast, more are expected to come.
Like everything else this summer of 2022, the fire season started late, but got up to speed quickly. The Southeast Fire Centre (SEFC) was the busiest region in the province earlier this week, with 25 fires started by the thunderstorm system, which brought more lightning than rain between the 21st and 24th. As the Valley Voice went to press Monday, there were nine fires burning in the readership area, which includes the Arrow Lakes, Slocan Valley and North Kootenay Lake. Most were spot fires, a hectare or smaller, caused by lightning strikes.
None were threatening residences or structures at press time.
Most of the fires are in one big cluster, on and around Frog Peak in the Norns Range, west of the Slocan Valley community of Passmore. There, six small fires are burning, one listed as under control, one new, and six out of control. The BC Wildfire Service assigned two initial attack crews and two helicopters to work on this cluster in what it calls a “priority sequence” — meaning fires closest to communities are prioritized first.
A new spot fire was also reported on Winlaw Creek southeast of the village.
Firefighters were making headway on some of the fires. The Cove Creek fire in Valhalla Provincial Park was listed as extinguished, as were two east of Winlaw and one northwest of Ainsworth, in Kokanee Park. A half-hectare fire near Watshan Lake was considered `under control’.
Other fires in the region include one at Mount Ferguson, about five kilometres south of Harrop; the Halfway Creek fire east of Salmo, Wally Creek north of that community, and the Wales FSR fire well east of Rossland.
Despite having three times the number of fires of other regions, the late-starting fire season did give SEFC firefighters one advantage, the fire service says.
“The Southeast had increased preparedness levels ahead of time, with additional crews and aviation resources prepared for the forecast storm activity in advance,” says a release from the BCWS issued Sunday. “Resource levels in the Southeast remain adequate for the current and anticipated conditions.”
And with nothing but sun and extreme temperatures in the forecast, the BCWS says it very much is expecting more work ahead.
“As temperatures are forecast to increase to above seasonal norms, we expect to find new fires from this weather pattern in the coming days,” it says.
Since April 1, 2022, there have been 47 fires covering 67 hectares in the Southeast Fire Centre. The fire danger rating in the Southeast Fire Centre today is a mix of moderate and high with small pockets of extreme in the Kootenay Lake and Arrow zones.