Aug. 5: Elephant Hill fire did not cross Highway 99 or Highway 1

Aug. 5: Elephant Hill fire did not cross Highway 99 or Highway 1

“We haven’t seen a lot of growth today”

9:00 p.m. update: “[We had a] pretty good day today actually overall. We did a little bit of burning. It wasn’t quite as successful as the burning we did yesterday. Only because it went a little bit slower and we didn’t quite have the same draw we like but we still were able to remove some of the volatile forest fuels east of Clinton there,” says Fire Information Officer for the Elephant Hill Fire Heather Rice.

According to Rice, they were very pleased with how a controlled burn yesterday (Aug. 4) turned out.

“Today we continue to focus our efforts also on the southeast and southwest flanks. On the southwest flank there, the fire did not cross Highway 99 and we’re working on guards there. On the southeast flank, it did not cross Highway 1 and we continue to work on that flank to try and reduce its movement. That’s just close to Battle Creek Forest service road.”

While the southern flanks were challenging in the last few days, crews are working with heavy equipment west of Young Lake, according to Rice. Tomorrow is expected to be similar conditions with northerly winds, says Rice.

“The last couple of days have been relatively good on the fire. We haven’t seen a lot of growth today because of the lighter winds.”

Night crew efforts are being increased due to the success they’ve had during the cooler temperatures, says Rice.

Original story: The Elephant Hill fire has expanded to 110,326 hectares, says Fire Information Officer Heather Rice.

Much of that growth has been on the southeastern and southwestern fronts of the fire, where the fire is nearing Highway 99 and Highway 1, says Rice.

The fire has not yet crossed either of those highways, however, it did cause a series of new evacuations on Aug. 4.

Related: Evacuation alert issued for Hat Creek, Tranquille areas

“They had a pretty good night last night,” says Rice. “The winds died down and it was a cooler evening so that allowed the crews to work specifically on both those southwest and southeast flanks.”

Both Highway 97 and Highway 99 are closed at the intersection of those highways, however, there is limited access to Highway 99 via escort, according to drive BC.

On Aug. 4, a controlled burn near Chasm was “extremely successful,” says Rice.

“They had just the right conditions to help draw the smoke up and out so they did over 7 km of a burn on that north flank,” she says. “They are feeling quite good about that north flank now and that it has been enhanced quite well.”

Today, Rice says crews will continue to look at conducting more controlled burns and strengthening guards.

“There seems to be a little less wind today so that will certainly help the efforts in the south.”

The terrain on the Elephant Hill fire has posed a challenge to fire fighters.

“Because there are several gullies and streams up in the Bonaparte and any time the fire gets down into those gullies, first of all, access is extremely difficult on those steeper slopes, plus if fire gets down into those it tends to carry the fire quite differently. The winds can be blowing up top but in the gully they can almost be in a different direction and it tends to take a run,” says Rice.

“Even the relative humidity can change when you have all sorts of gullies and aspects and affects how the fire behaviour changes.”

Related: Southern flanks a challenge on Elephant Hill fire

The fire is also being fought in different fuel types. Dry timber burns differently than lower fuels found in grasslands, and it’s easier to create guards in the lower fuels, says Rice.

“In the evenings when it cools down it’s easier to get ahead of those [grassland] fires, generally speaking, if they are not in the timber because it’s just safer to do so. In the timber fuels, of course, it’s a much different story because if the fire does start to become aggressive it’s much more likely to send embers and spot up ahead and that’s where you can get that movement and any sudden changes in wind can create a shift quite quickly.

“That’s why we are consistently reminding all people on the lines to just be situationally aware of what is occurring and what way the winds are blowing because in the heavy timber with things as dry as they are, the fire can change quite quickly. It’s just a much more volatile situation in the heavier timber areas than it would be on the grasslands.”

The fire now has 441 fire fighters, 102 structural protection personnel, 21 helicopters and 105 pieces of heavy equipment working on it.

“With that size of a fire, there’s a lot of equipment, a lot of people, so there’s a lot of coordination that has to happen on it and, of course, again safety is our number one issue and making sure we know where everyone is and what they are doing and that everyone is staying safe,” she says.

“They are doing as much as they can before the winds maybe shift back up to the north but they are quite pleased with how things went yesterday and overnight and they are hoping to build on the successes they have had and it’s been a couple of good days in a row now,” says Rice.

“We have had some good success the last couple of days and we hope to build on that and we hope the weather continues to cooperate so that we can enhance the guards where we need to and move forward.”

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