RDEK update

The weather forecast is calling for continued hot, dry conditions for at least the next few days with very little precipitation on the horizon. The winds we have been experiencing are expected to continue and there is a chance of a small cold front moving in Sunday through Monday carrying isolated gusty winds. Our relative humidity is very low during the day and, combined with the heat and wind, we have strong burning conditions.

Current Evacuation Alerts or Orders:

• Evacuation ORDER for Moyie North including Mineral and Monroe Lakes -174 properties including Provincial Campground and 3 private campgrounds (effective September 1, 2017 @ 18:00)

• Evacuation ORDER for Moyie South – affecting approximately 223 properties (one of which is 277 site Eagles Nest campground) (effective September 2, 2017 @ 12:00)

• Evacuation ORDER for Newgate / West Koocanusa – 18 properties (but includes 300 campground sites on private campgrounds) (effective September 2, 2017 @ 22:00)

• Evacuation ALERT for east side of Koocanusa in Grasmere Area (delivery of notices still underway)
(effective September 2, 2017 @ 20:30)

• Evacuation ALERT in the Mission/Fort Steele area due to the St. Mary River Fire – approximately 100 properties
(effective September 1, 2017 @ 20:00)

• Evacuation ORDER on the Aqam Reserve for 36 residences (effective September 1, 2017)

We would like to extend a huge thanks the RCMP, Search and Rescue, CVSE, Conservation Officer Service, and NRO’s (and other helpers) who have helped hand deliver these notices and orders. You only need to take one look at the above list to see how busy they have been in the past two days (and as I write this one team is still out hard at it).

Current Fire Updates:

Lamb Creek Fire:
• Two evacuation ORDERS remain in place
• The Fire was active today and so were the BC Wildfire Service crews. They were in the air this morning and the helicopters dropped water while the tanker painted the mountain red with retardant. They had heavy equipment on the fire today and were planning to work that equipment through the night tonight as long as the fire conditions permit. The Structural Protection Unit is on site and the team is continuing with its assessments.

St. Mary River Fire:
• They made good progress on the fire today. The fire is estimated at 398 hectares in size and they had 2 unit crews and 6 pieces of equipment on the fire
• They have built guarding around the fire and as of 7pm tonight, the fire was within those guard lines.
• Evacuation Alert for Mission/Fort Steele Area remains in place (as does the Aqam Band evac order for 36 homes on the Reserve).

• This fire has been very active today, burning on the US side and the Canadian side. The winds on the fire continued to be quite strong and have been carrying ash and needles quite a distance. Once again today, the fire exhibited aggressive behaviour.
• The fire on the Canadian side is estimated at 130 hectares. On the US side, it is estimated at 2744 hectares.
• An evacuation ALERT was issued for the Newgate / Koocanusa West area this afternoon and was very shortly thereafter upgraded to an ORDER. At almost the same time, and evacuation ALERT was issued for the east side of the lake in the Grasmere area.
• On the US side, the Lincoln Co. Sheriff has issued Evacuation Orders for the Montana communities of Dodge Creek, Spring Creek, and West Kootenai.

White River Complex:
• The three fires that make up the White River Complex are burning closer together – two of them have joined. The estimated combined size is 7000 hectares. Today they had 43 firefighters, 3 helicopters and 4 pieces of heavy equipment on the fire. This complex is being closely monitored and reassessed. These fires are burning in a remote area well past Whiteswan in the Middle Fork/White River.

Quinn Creek:
• This fire is burning in a remote area east of Top of the World Provincial Park. This fire has also been very active as is now estimated at 2700 hectares in size. It is in a remote area not threatening any structures or communities at this time, but you can see the smoke plume most notably in the afternoon during the heat of the day.

Flathead/Wigwam Area Fires:
• The Lodgepole Forest Service Road Fire in the Elk Valley continues to grow. We don’t have an updated size estimate; however, this fire remains active and closely monitored. This the largest of the fires in the Flathead / Wigwam and none of them threaten any communities or structures at this time.

Travel and Skies:
The Highways in the region are not currently being affected by the fires or evacuations and are open. There is a general travel advisory in place as there may be areas of heavy smoke and there may be congestion in the Moyie area. There is a “no stopping” section established in the Moyie area to keep traffic moving. With the smoke in the air, it comes as no surprise that the Air Quality Advisory remains in effect in our region for the time being.

Scheduled flights were cancelled Friday at the Cranbrook Airport; however, they did resume Saturday. The Cranbrook to Calgary flights Saturday had to be cancelled; however, the Cranbrook to Vancouver flights were good. If you are planning to fly over the next couple of days, it would be a good idea to call ahead and check on the flight status.

Parks / Backcountry Closures:

The backcountry closure is now in effect for all Crown land in the Rocky Mountain District (so no public access to Crown land). There has been some confusion around whether area lakes would be closed as part of that backcountry closure (and the originally were for a brief time). In the end, the Province amended the backcountry area restriction and is now permitting people to use / access area lakes/water provided the access and egress to water is via private land, municipal land, highway (including rights of way) or specific BC front country parks boat launching facilities (although Moyie is on the Ministry’s list, it remains closed and under an evacuation order). The RDEK has now reopened the Koocanusa – Yakakaklamki Boat Launch. The backcountry closure is a Provincial initiative, and while I try to help pass information along, I can’t answer your specific questions. On Sunday, they will have Ministry staff available from 8am-4:30pm to answer questions at 250-426-1766.

In keeping with the Provincial backcountry bans, the RDEK felt it would be prudent to follow suit with our regional parks. We will also be closing the marshalling areas at the Tie Lake, Wasa, and Canal Flats transfer stations. The waste bins will remain open to the public. As of today, the following parks have been closed:
• Wycliffe Park
• Wycliffe Exhibition Grounds
• Elk Valley Park
• Tie Lake Park
• Cherry Creek Falls Park
• Avery Road Lake Access
• Old Coach Trail – (Dry Gulch to Radium)
• Aldridge Community Park
• West Fernie Park
Signage has been placed at some sites today, and more will be done tomorrow.

The next update will be Sunday afternoon (unless something significant changes).

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