Smoke from the Elephant Hill wildfire east of Clinton on July 29, the day the Village was put on evacuation order.                                Susan Swan

Smoke from the Elephant Hill wildfire east of Clinton on July 29, the day the Village was put on evacuation order. Susan Swan

Village of Clinton still on evacuation order

Crews are doing controlled burns to try to contain the fire, and alerts and orders have been issued.

The Village of Clinton is still on Evacuation Order as of the time of writing on August 1. The Order was issued by the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) on the afternoon of Saturday, July 29. Clinton had been on an Evacuation Alert since July 14, but on the 29th high winds drove the fire across the Bonaparte River and the village was considered under immediate threat.

The Evacuation Order was subsequently expanded to include the Chasm Mill north of Clinton. The TNRD also issued Evacuation Orders for several properties northeast of Clinton and others to the west of Clinton and Highway 97, as well as for the area north from Clinton along the east side of Highway 97 through 70 Mile, and south and east of Green Lake. The TNRD has also extended an Evacuation Alert to properties west of Highway 97 on the Bonaparte Plateau.

The Cariboo Regional District (CRD) also issued several Evacuation Orders in the area, for properties east of Highway 97 to Little Green Lake, approximately three kilometres north following the shoreline of Green Lake. This includes Watch Lake. Sheridan Lake and the southern part of Lone Butte were put on Evacuation Alert.

“The wind whipped the fire up and it crossed the Bonaparte River,” Clinton resident Susan Swan told The Journal on July 29. She added that aircraft were hitting the fire “hard, and often.”

“Just watching the smoke. Bombers are still attacking it,” added Swan, who did not evacuate. “Hoping the wind will drop as the sun goes down.”

On the morning of July 30, Swan reported that the village was now on a Boil Water Advisory, as the water treatment plant could not keep up with the demand for water, and public works had to bypass it. “They could not keep up with the amount of water being used for sprinklers, filling water bladders, structural protection units serving up sprinklers, filling tanker trucks, etc.,” she said.

“The scene [on the morning of July 30] is much different than last night,” she continued. “The wind dropped some overnight and the beast settled down quite a bit. There is still a breeze, but not the strong winds of last night. Police and fire trucks (thank you Saanich and Nanaimo) patrolled the streets during the night.”

On the afternoon of July 30, Swan said that the fire camp located at Clinton had been moved north to 100 Mile House. “The necessary services are not here for them. Now that Clinton is on Evacuation Order, supply trucks, etc. are not getting in. When you have 300+ people to feed you need supplies.

“The Incident Commander said that the only way they will get this fire slowed is with backburns. If the wind is from the southeast they would be doing burns this afternoon [July 30]. It was and they did.”

No structures have been lost so far. By Monday, July 31 crews from 15 different fire departments were fighting the fire, with equipment and crew working 24 hours a day. The Army was also onsite with equipment.

Swan reported that after the massive backburning of the day before, July 31 dawned relatively quietly.

“The first treed ridge that we see [from our house] is intact,” she said. “The burn was done on the ridge behind that. I’m sure the view looking up the valley would be different. The fire never came really close to the townsite, so for those who have been wondering if they would have a house to return to, it looks good at this time.”

Interior Health has announced that the Clinton Health and Wellness Centre, which is normally open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. is closed until further notice. Medical services are available for evacuees at the Emergency Social Services centre at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops.

The Evacuation Order forced the cancellation of several events in Clinton, including a Music in the Park concert scheduled for July 29, a farewell dinner for chief administrative officer Tom Dall on July 30, and a community information meeting on July 31.

Highway 97 has been closed at 70 Mile House and south of Clinton at the junction with Loon Lake Road due to the fire. The highway will remain open to support the evacuation of residents. Evacuees from the TNRD have been asked to go to Kamloops, while CRD residents are being asked to go to 100 Mile House.