The Elephant Hill wildfire that started on July 6 continues to remain at 168,000 hectares—a figure that has remained unchanged for a week—and is now 25 per cent contained, the BC Wildfire Service reports as of August 22.
This means that several areas that were under Evacuation Order have been changed to Evacuation Alert, and hundreds of area residents have been able to return home. On August 15 the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) announced that the Evacuation Order for the Village of Clinton and some residences to the south and north — including residents who were on Evacuation Order along the Highway 97 and Highway 99 corridors — had been changed to an Alert.
The Highway 97 corridor from Cache Creek north to Clinton was also changed from an Evacuation Order to an Alert as of 4 p.m. on August 15. Evacuation Orders were also changed to Alerts in two areas north of Highway 99 to the east of Cache Creek.
Clinton councillor Diana Guerin says she was alerted to the news that the Clinton Evacuation Order — which was issued on July 29 — was being downgraded on the morning of August 15. “I am so very happy for all the residents to be returning to our beloved community,” she told The Journal. “It has been a long 2+ weeks away from home, and many of us just want to be in our own homes.”
However, she cautioned that “We must remain vigilant, and are still on alert. We still must be prepared to leave should the situation change.
“I am so happy words cannot say it enough! Welcome home Clintonites!”
On August 16, an Evacuation Order that had been issued for the Bonaparte and Criss Creek areas on August 12 was also rescinded, and changed to an Evacuation Alert.
On August 19, the TNRD announced that property owners in the Loon Lake area could return to their properties as of Sunday, August 20. An Evacuation Order for the area had been issued on July 14. The area remains on Evacuation Alert.
There are areas surrounding Loon Lake that remain on Evacuation Order, so travel in these areas continues to be restricted. The RCMP will remain in the area to monitor and restrict access to Order areas.
The areas surrounding Loon Lake that remain on Evacuation Order, including Hihium Lake, will continue to be reviewed regularly. A separate notice for these properties will be issued once areas are determined to be safe for re-entry.
On August 21, an Evacuation Order that had been issued for some residents in the Deadman-Vidette area was changed to an Evacuation Alert. Members of the Skeetchestn Indian Band, who had been on Evacuation Order since August 4, were also able to return home on August 21.
Residents of all areas that have been changed to Evacuation Alert are reminded that while the Elephant Hill wildfire remains active, residents need to stay vigilant and must be prepared to leave at any time. Residents will be given as much advance warning as possible prior to an evacuation; however at times only limited notice can be provided due to changing conditions.
On August 20, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations issued a notice putting in place an expanded area restriction for all Crown land in the vicinity of the Elephant Hill wildfire, which took effect as of noon on August 20. It will remain in place until the earlier of noon on October 31, 2017 or until the order is rescinded.
This restriction has been put in place to protect public safety and to ensure the safety of firefighting personnel who continue with fire suppression activities.
Under this order and Section 11(2) of the Wildfire Act, a person must not remain in or enter the Elephant Hill wildfire restricted area without the prior written authorization of an official designated for the purposes of the Wildfire Act, unless the person enters the area only in the course of travelling to or from his or her principal residence that is not under an evacuation order; travelling to or from leased property for the purpose of accessing a secondary residence or recreational property; using a highway as defined in the Transportation Act; travelling as a person acting in an official capacity; travelling for the purpose of supporting wildfire suppression activities; engaging in a commercial activity within the regular course of the person’s business or employment; or participating in a commercial activity that a person described above provides.
The restriction does not include private land or the landfill and transfer station.
The order applies to all Crown land within the geographic boundaries as outlined on a map, which is available online at http://ow.ly/vuzi30exQOf.
The BC Wildfire Service says that as of the time of writing on August 22, 548 firefighters, 16 helicopters, 123 pieces of heavy equipment, numerous support personnel including a BC Incident Management Team, and structural protection personnel were all supporting efforts on the Elephant Hill fire.
Firefighters continue to construct control lines around the fire, which remains south of Green Lake and has not grown in any direction. It is not currently threatening the Interlakes area.
Air support continues to assist in the construction of control lines and to assist in the suppression of fire near properties. The fire north of Highway 99,continues to hold within the control line.