FILE - The Harrop Creek wildfire at its most active. (Black Press file)

FILE - The Harrop Creek wildfire at its most active. (Black Press file)

West Kootenay wildfires calm down

Progress has been made on several West Kootenay fires this week.

The fire situation calmed down in the West Kootenay this week with progress being made on several fronts.

The Harrop Creek fire was 100 per cent contained on the north end as of Tuesday afternoon, the south end was being monitored to ensure that the fire burns in the established boundaries. The fire was still burning in steep and difficult terrain and was not threatening any communities.

Progress on the McCormick Creek fire near Salmo resulted in the evacuation alert for all residents in the alert area to be rescinded as of Friday, Aug. 25. Highway 6 and the Nelway border crossing, which had both been closed during the evacuation order, reopened at the same time.

The BC Wildfire Service reports that the fire has burned 410 hectares and was 100 per cent contained. Smoke may still be visible from Highway 6, and the Salmo area with more smoke expected as afternoon temperatures peak and pockets of unused fuels burn inside the containment lines.

As of Tuesday there were 22 firefighters, two helicopters and five pieces of heavy equipment working mop-up efforts.

“It will take a while to extinguish every single hot spot,” explained Karlie Shaughnessy, fire information officer for the BC Wildfire Service. “The crews have to cold trail it — they have to do mop-up, spray it down and then basically make sure there is nothing burning underneath … it is the last stage.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Weather forecasters were calling for more hot and dry conditions, meaning the situation may change at any time.

“We definitely still have been experiencing some really warm temperatures and we haven’t had any relief from precipitation in a really long time,” said Shaughnessy. “It is still really dry out there.”

The smoke that has blown into the Castlegar area in the last few days is coming from fires in Washington and Oregon. That situation was expected to continue until the wind changes direction. However, if the wind direction switches to prevailing from the north or northwest, smoke from the Okanagan and Cariboo fires is likely to blow in.

This has prompted the Interior Health Authority to add the West Kootenay to their Smoky Skies Bulletin stating that “smoke concentrations will vary widely as winds, fire behaviour and temperatures change.”