UPDATE Friday 5 p.m.
Even more new wildfires have been spotted in the Monashee Complex.
A seven-hectare blaze has been discovered north of Sugar Lake at Deer Creek. It is near the Spectrum Creek spot fire.
Near Mabel Lake, a spot-sized fire has been discovered at Simard Creek.
At the north end of Mabel Lake a .1 hectare fire is burning at Devil Creek Forest Service Road. It is near the 35 hectare Devil Creek blaze.
Meanwhile the largest fire in the area, the Mabel Creek blaze, is nearing Mabel Lake.
“It’s getting closer,” said Randy Smith, who has property in the area.
But the blaze is still not threatening any structures.
Canadian Armed Forces troops are in Vernon, but are not actioning the Monashee Complex fires yet. The members are in town to take over on mop up when firefighters have completed their roles.
“Our soldiers come in and make sure it stays contained and doesn’t flare up,” said Bonnie Wilken, third Canadian Division public affairs.
UPDATE Friday 12:30 p.m.
Firefighters have gotten a handle on several blazes near Cherryville.
The Sprokton Creek fire burning near Sugar Lake is now estimated at 22.9 hectares (down from 103.4 Thursday evening).
Two new fires burning in the Silver Hills area also appear to have calmed down. The larger Woodward Creek fire is five hectares.
Nearby resident Jessie Campbell noticed the fires Thursday across Shuswap River facing north by the Cherryville Golf Course. Helicopters were seen circling the blaze and by Friday morning the Campbell reported there was less smoke coming from the fires.
“Hoping the helicopters come back today,” said Campbell.
BC Wildfire Service confirms that further actioning will take place today.
An incident management team from Ontario is now managing the Monashee Complex wildfires, taking over from Parks Canada.
“The team’s Fire Behaviour Analyst will be getting accurate sizes of the priority fires and performing assessments and projections,” Incident Commander Joel Legasy states in his report.
The Woodward Creek fires were two of three new fire starts within the complex Thursday, the other being near Three Valley Gap.
One concern for crews is the weather. Unstable airmass is causing risks of late day thunderstorms. Winds and the slow uptrend in the weather will lead to an increase in fire behaviour.
“Possibility of increased starts today and potential for active fire behaviour as smoke lifts,” reports Legasy, adding: “It is unlikely that the smoke will clear today.”
Along with the smoke, residents are dealing with ash, particularly those in Cherryville.
“I woke up to my truck windshield covered in ash on Creighton by Echo,” said Britnee Boychuk. “No good.”
UPDATE Thursday, 7 p.m.
Two new wildfires are burning near Cherryville.
The B.C. Wildfire Service reports two Woodward Creek fires (.4 and .01 hectares) discovered Thursday in the Silver Hills area.
Growth has also been observed at the Sprokton Creek fire, which is now estimated at 103.4 hectares. The fire is visible to campers and recreationalists on the west side of Sugar Lake. It is not currently threatening the public.
The Monashee Complex started at 27 fires and now covers 15 fires in the drainages of Mabel and Sugar lakes from just south of Highway 6 in Lumby and Cherryville to Three Valley Gap in the north.
The change in number is due to a few factors: Mabel Creek burned into several smaller fires, some fires are now out or under control, and others have been transferred to the Vernon Zone. The Whip Creek and Smyth Creek fires (south of the Mabel Creek blaze) burned together Wednesday. That fire is an estimated 173 hectares and is not threatening any structures.
“We are beginning to see an increase in fire behaviour and are responding and strategizing accordingly,” said Jane Park, incident commander in her report. “A small holdover fire from Saturday’s storm exhibited increased fire behaviour yesterday (Wednesday). We are anticipating additional holdover lightning fires.”
That is the Sprokton Creek fire, visible to campers and recreationalists on the west side of Sugar Lake. It is not currently threatening the public.
Meanwhile there have been two reports of firefighting equipment being stolen. An ATV, chainsaw, tool box and more were stolen from the back of a firefighter tree faller’s truck from the Village Green Hotel last week. Another theft near Mabel Lake saw $1,000 worth of water hoses and a pump stolen.
Closures remain in place and have been expanded near Mabel and Sugar lakes.
“We have had a number of reports of people violating the area restrictions and the Forest Service Road closure that are in place for the safety of our workers as well as for the safety of the public,” Park’s report reads. “As such, we are working with our enforcement partners to have a higher presence of Natural Resource Officers in the area of the Mabel Lake Forest Service Road.”
Over at Harris Creek, hand ignitions are being performed to reduce unburned fuels and strengthen containment lines.
Meanwhile with the provincial state of emergency underway, approximately 280 Canadian Armed Forces members are in the Okanagan to assist. The first mission is at the Gottfriedsen Mountain fire west of Kelowna to start the mop-up of contained fires. The Forces will stage from the Vernon Cadet Camp and the town of Merritt, as well as Kelowna.