A helicopter that drops retardant comes in to fill up in Clinton B.C. on August 4. Tara Sprickerhoff photo.

Aug 4: Southern flanks a challenge on Elephant Hill fire today

Fire has not crossed Highway 1 or Highway 99

8:45 p.m. update: The Elephant Hill fire posed a challenge on its southern flanks today, says Fire Information Officer Heather Rice, causing several new evacuation orders and alerts between the Thompson-Nicola Regional District and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

“It has not crossed Highway 99 or Highway 1 but it has come close to both of those highways. Crews again continue to work really hard on those two flanks on the south: the south east and the south west. Winds have definitely calmed down and there will be night crews in those areas again tonight making some efforts while it is a bit more calm and cooler,” says Rice.

Through the evenings, due to less volatility on the fire, Rice says it is easier to get ahead of the fire to create guards, both through burning by hand and creating guards using machines.

“Those will probably be the main things they work on tonight — the machine lines and some night fire lighting to try and get a handle on those two flanks.”

Related: Evacuation alert issued for Hat Creek, Tranquille areas

Near Chasm and Clinton, crews were able to complete a controlled burn that was delayed until later in the day.

“It went very well. It went according to plan,” says Rice. “They’ve been pleased with it. It creates a lot more stable north flank and it protects the mill quite a bit more having that much more fuel burned away from that area.”

In the north east section, towards Young Lake, Rice says the fire continues to slowly encroach on that general area.

“That one’s been a tough flank because of the terrain there, so they are keeping an eye on that east flank right now, but I’m not sure we’ve been able to action it as well as the other flanks.”

Going into the evening, Rice says that they are expecting calmer winds through the evening and tomorrow is expected to be hot. Otherwise, she says the fire may experience another inversion, creating smokier conditions.

Still, the success on the Chasm side of the fire is uplifting.

“The crews had a nice success today and I think that will help encourage them to continue to move forward and do what is working, which is basically fighting the fire with fire.”

Original story: West Fraser Mills has started to remove some of the product from their mill in Chasm, said Fire Information Officer Heather Rice on a media tour of the area earlier today (Aug. 4).

“The mill has been a major priority, so on the mill site we have a lot of structural protection people there, the mill site themselves have personnel on site helping to prepare the mill. We have also gotten permission to bring in heavy trucks so that they can start to remove some of their product just to lessen their concerns there. They have chip trucks and lumber trucks coming in today and moving some of their product up to Prince George to get it out of harm’s way and to make it less volatile down there should we have some issues.”

While conditions were too smokey during the morning and early afternoon to do a controlled burn in the Chasm area, Rice says that crews were in the preparatory stages for it. A helicopter, visible from the Big Bar turnout north of Clinton, dropped retardant in areas hard to reach by machinery.

“We make sure there are lots of aircraft on standby, we build guards, quite big guards, because that’s where we’ll start the burn from the guard and then they’ll burn it up a hill,” she says. “Then, as you just saw, we’ll dump some fire retardant just to give extra protection should the winds shift on us and create embers going the wrong direction.”

Winds from the northwest have provided some relief for the north area of the fire, however they have caused issues on the south end, in the area west of Highway 97 where the fire jumped and to the north east of Cache Creek.

Fire in those areas have caused the closure of Highway 99 and the temporary closure of Highway 1, as well as caused new evacuation orders.

Related: Wildfire closes Highway 1 east of Cache Creek

The fire does continue to grow towards Young Lake however, and Rice says that heavy machinery has been at work creating fire guards along the northern front of the fire.

Otherwise, Rice says there have been no new structures lost in the Clinton area and crews have made good progress in the middle of the fire around Loon Lake.

“We are going to continue to do controlled burns as that is the most effective way to deal with a fire this size but we will continue to use all the science and expertise that we have available which is some of the best in the world to make sure we do it right.”

The fire is now at 93,755 hectares, with 446 firefighters, 97 structural protection personnel, 21 helicopters and 105 pieces of heavy machinery working on it.