Residents near 20 Mile Ranch and south of Clinton are voicing their anger on social media after what they call a “controlled burn gone horribly wrong” caused the flames to jump across Highway 97.
Photos posted to Facebook on Tuesday show heavy smoke near rural properties in the Loon Lake area near Maiden Creek.
“It was about 15 minutes from the time they started until the hydro transistor on the big pole blew apart and maybe a few more minutes until it crossed west onto Hwy 97,” one post on the 20 Mile Ranch Facebook group reads.
“There were some very strong winds blowing when they started that didn’t just magically appear after the burn was already going. This fire is now raging on another mountainside and it’s going to be a beastly one to gain any control on.”
Fire information officer Heather Rice said Wednesday morning fire crews were focused on holding the fire on the hill away from the highway.
“We actioned that immediately with lots of water from the helicopters and air skimmers and were able to hold that fire,” Rice said. “It went up to the top of the ridge and then stalled, which is often what happens in the evening when a fire hits the top of a hill. So the plan today is, of course, to hold it in that particular spot.”
Highway 97 remains closed from Loon Lake to the Hwy. 99 junction. An evacuation order was issued for areas south and west of Clinton Wednesday afternoon.
Chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said Wednesday afternoon there had been a “dramatic and unforecasted shift in the wind,” which caused the fire spillover.
“At the time it was ignited, the weather was as forecasted and a lot of design goes into when we do these things,” he said.
“The fact of the matter is when fires get to this size, the use of the controlled ignition is one of the best hacks that we have in terms of trying to control them.”
I am writing this post from Maiden Creek in the middle of our field at 4:15 am. It is with the saddest of heart that I…
— More to come.