West Kootenay fires continue to burn: centre

Updated "Wildfires of Note" include Rossland, north of Syringa campground and a small fire near Fruitvale.

A wildfire near Rossland and another burning north of Syringa campground added to the BC Forest Service’s ‘Wildfire of Note’ list Wednesday afternoon.

The two lightning-caused blazes up the number of active fires in the Southeast Fire Centre to five – four in the West Kootenay and one in Creston.

The Big Sheep Creek and Deer Creek Park fires have been burning since Aug. 12 and Aug. 14 respectively, and these lightning-caused fires remain zero per cent contained.

The Big Sheep Creek fire, west of Rossland and 75 hectares, had air tankers assisting a 20-man ground crew Wednesday.

The fire wasn’t threatening any structures or communities at press time, but smoke was visible to residents of Sheep Creek and Rossland.

The remote Deer Creek Park fire was reported to be 560 hectares, but only visible via smoke in Castlegar and surrounding areas.

Further west, an aggressive fire continues to burn in the Paulson Pass. Suspected to be lightning-caused, the wildfire has grown to 260 hectares since Friday and remains zero per cent contained.

Two helicopters and six pieces of heavy equipment were on site alongside a 30-man crew, creating a fire guard Wednesday afternoon.

Highway 3 between Nancy Greene junction and Christina Lake was closed Tuesday evening around 7 p.m. when the fire spread close to the roadway.

The 37-kilometer (km) stretch was re-opened the following morning, but was limited to single-alternating traffic. Thick smoke and fallen debris cleared up by noon, and the highway was opened in both directions, with motorists warned of 20-minute delays.

A water tender was patrolling the highway and spraying a 10-metre buffer between the area of concern and the side of the highway, confirmed Fire Information Officer Karlie Shaughnessy, from the Southeast Fire Centre.

West of Rock Creek, about 4,300 hectares have been consumed by a fire sparked Aug. 13.

The larger estimated size on Wednesday was due to new growth on the southeast side of the valley, though the majority of the fire’s growth happened the initial day.

The Southeast Fire Centre reports 124 new fires since Aug. 12, most from recent lightning activity.

Locally, the most recent is a spot fire ignited  by lightning Tuesday, about six km east of Fruitvale. Initial attack crews were on site Wednesday dealing with the fire, estimated to be well under one hectare.