The Monashee Complex fires continues to burn near Lumby and Cherryville. (BC Wildfire Service photo)

Troops heading to Lumby to lend a hand with wildfires

Canadian Armed Forces coming to relieve firefighters at Harris Creek Thursday

UPDATE Tuesday 3 p.m.

Help is on its way to Lumby.

The Canadian Armed Forces are heading to the Harris Creek wildfire Thursday morning to assist with the 511 hectare blaze.

“It should be in a stage of control that will allow the armed forces to conduct mop up operations,” said Shelley Zupp, fire information officer.

As B.C. Wildfire Service crews have been battling many of the Monashee Complex fires more than two weeks now, the assistance is appreciated.

“We’re very grateful to the armed forces for coming in to help us reinforce our crews,” said Zupp, as firefighters work 14 days straight and then take a mandatory two days off to refresh.

See also: Vernon junior firefighters on front lines

Crews are making progress on the fires, including Harris Creek, where successful burn operations have been taking place to clean up unburned fuels. The fire is now mapped at 511 hectares, up from 508.

There are currently 35 personnel working the Harris Creek fire, supported by nine pieces of heavy equipment and air support as needed.

Over at the 1,861 hectare Mabel Creek blaze crews are continuing to reinforce containment on the west and north flanks for potential planned ignition that may take place later this week, weather permitting.

“They are to reduce the risk to fire fighter safety as they work to suppress the fire,” said Zupp.

There are 17 personnel, eight pieces of heavy equipment and air support if needed at Mabel.

“BCWS ground resources continue to make good progress on this fire.”

See: New fire spotted near Mabel

The Whip Creek blaze, near the Mabel Creek fire, is now an estimated 504 hectares – up from the 173 hectares last week.

The Sugar Mountain fire is now 394 hectares (up from 332 last week) and is now in a monitored status.

“BCWS continue to assess and evaluate where resources will be allocated in the next few days.”

Near Frank’s Store, the Woodward Creek fire doubled in size Monday, following substantial growth over the weekend and now sits at an estimated 100 hectares.

The wildfire exhibited more active wildfire activity Monday night, but crews were planning a burn operation Tuesday in order to increase containment by bringing a fuel free zone up to the fire guard.

“The planned ignition will be visible from Highway 6 and surrounding communities,” said Zupp, adding the fire will grow in size.

There are 20 personnel and eight pieces of heavy equipment actioning that blaze.

The Sprokton Creek fire is now being held at 23 hectares and responding well to suppression efforts. There are six personnel on mop up and reinforcing the northern guard.

Meanwhile firefighters appreciate the local support seen in the area. A hand-made sign was posted on Mabel Lake Forest Service Road which read: “Fire Fighter and Fire Crews we Thank You,” by a couple of youngsters.

After a tough week battling the fires, crew member Tommy Williams saw the sign Friday and it brightened his day.

“I was driving to work this morning running on caffeine and losing faith in our control of this fire when I came around the corner and at the entrance to Cottonwood Campsite I see this sign and it just hit me and gave me the drive to dig in and make a difference protecting these people and their cabins is what are are doing, the trees will grow back, so thank you!”

Rose Derry said it was the idea of her children, Jessie (11) and Cody (six), to put the sign up, with some help from family as everyone truly appreciates the efforts being made.


UPDATE Monday 5 p.m.

Canadian Armed Forces are coming to Lumby and Cherryville to lend a helping hand to some of the exhausted firefighters.

BC Wildfire Service crews continue to battle a number of fires in the Monashee Complex, therefore CAF is transitioning to the area by the end of week to provide ground assistance on priority fires.

“We have 100 armed forces coming to help support,” said Shelley Zupp, fire information officer. “They likely will be spread between the fires in that area.”

Smoke continues to be the main challenge throughout the Kamloops Fire Centre and the Monashee complex.

Air support has been grounded, due to lack of visibility, and is preventing crews from having aerial views and performing danger tree falling.

“It’s really difficult, they were not flying the last few days because of the smoke,” said Zupp. “Sometimes that can be advantageous as it keeps the temperatures down and relative humidity up. So even though the smoke prevented us from flying it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

See: Lumby pool closed due to poor air quality

Air support that is assigned to this complex will fly once the smoke clears and it is deemed safe to do so. Although fire activity will increase once the smoke clears.

Despite the visibility issues, good progress is being made on all the fires.

See: Fire sparked near Falkland

At the Woodward Creek wildfire (26.7 hectares – up from five hectares last week) the machine guard was 60 per cent completed as of Sunday. Crews are also preparing for a burn operation later in the week if conditions are ideal.

Crews have also made good advancements on the Harris Creek wildfire (508 hectares) as blacklining has been executed in strategic areas and has 85 per cent of its guard completed. The Sprokton Creek wildfire (22.9 hectares) is 100 per cent surrounded by guard.

Efforts were concentrated Monday on prepping the Mabel Creek wildfire (1,861 hectares) for ignition operations that will take place later on this week on the north flank. The Sugar Mountain wildfire (394 hectares, up from 332 last week) will also be monitored.

While some of the fires appear to have grown in size, it is often due to more accurate mapping.

“We only get estimates in the first few days and then it takes some time to get the right mapping,” said Zupp, expecting that additional mapping will take place.

“Now that they can fly again they’ll do another reconnaissance of the fires.”

Meanwhile firefighters appreciate the local support seen in the area. A hand-made sign was posted on Mabel Lake Forest Service Road which read: “Fire Fighter and Fire Crews we Thank You.”

After a tough week battling the fires, crew member Tommy Williams saw the sign Friday and it brightened his day.

“I was driving to work this morning running on caffeine and losing faith in our control of this fire when I came around the corner and at the entrance to Cottonwood Campsite I see this sign and it just hit me and gave me the drive to dig in and make a difference protecting these people and their cabins is what are are doing, the trees will grow back, so thank you!”


UPDATE Monday 10 a.m.

Fires near Lumby and Cherryville have seen significant growth over the weekend.

The Whip Creek blaze, near the Mabel Creek fire, is now an estimated 504 hectares – up from the 173 hectares last week.

The Sugar Mountain wildfire has also seen growth and now sits at 394 hectares, up from 332.

Woodward Creek, burning near Cherryville in the Silver Hills area, is now 26.7 hectares – up from five hectares last week.

Simard Creek, which was discovered Friday, grew to .67 hectares. Deer Creek, which was also discovered Friday, remains at seven hectares.

See related: BC Wildfire crew rescues lost puppies

The Sprokton Creek fire (west of Sugar Lake) remains at 22.9 hectares.

Mabel Creek sits at 1,861 hectares.

Harris Creek is 508.

Devil’s Creek is 39

Derry Drainage is 43.

East of Tsuius Mountain is 44.

Finlyson Lakes sits at 16.

Proctor Road is 20.

Crews continue to tackle the Monashee Complex of fires, which started at 27 and now covers 14.

Kidney Lake, Ireland Creek, Silver Ireland FSR, Sugar Lake Road, Silver Hills, Spallumcheen Forest and Wap Creek are now classified as out.

“The potential for active fire behaviour exists, especially as smoke thins throughout the day,” Brad Litke, regional wildfire co-ordination officer in his report Sunday. “Areas that see sunshine should expect isolated torching with the potential for intermittent crown fire behaviour through the afternoon and evening, especially for the southern reaches of the complex. Slash fuels have the potential to exhibit extremely aggressive fire behaviour with substantial rates of spread far beyond the capabilities of ground crews.”

Danger trees also continue be a hazard for the fires, many of which are burning in high elevation with steep and rocky terrain. The smoke and poor venting will also challenge crews as visibility is compromised and flying operations are effected.

See: More smoggy air for the Okanagan


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.

See: Armed troops in Okanagan to help firefighters

“Our soldiers come in and make sure it stays contained and doesn’t flare up,” said Bonnie Wilken, third Canadian Division public affairs.

In other wildfire news: Naramata firefighters diverted after fires breach Burns Lake camp

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.

See: Whole city of Kimberly on evacuation alert

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.”

See related: Ash falling in the Okanagan

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.

See related: Hazy skies impacting crews in spotting new fires


UPDATE Thursday, 2 p.m.

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 responded with air support and continue to monitor and assess the situation (Thursday). 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.

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