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Smoke returns to Prince George, but wildfires remain calm in region

Air quality advisory remains in effect for city
Skeetchestn water protection
A building on the Skeetchestn Reserve is watered down as firefighters and community members work together to battle the Sparks Lake wildfire. Similar structure protection equipment is being used to pour water on buildings in the Manson Creek area northwest of Mackenzie being threated by the Mount Porter fire.

Where there’s smoke there’s fire.

After nearly two weeks of clean air unpolluted by wildfire smoke, that familiar haze is back in Prince George today.

The good news is it’s not from fires close to the city. A high pressure system that’s brought back the heat is creating a northwesterly air flow which is pushing smoke up from wildfires in the southern Interior.

Prince George Fire Centre communications specialist Sharon Nickel said the Flat Lake fire 27 kilometres southwest of 100 Mile House is the most likely culprit producing the smoke that now envelops Prince George. That blaze, discovered July 8, has grown to 45,526 hectares.

“We don’t have a lot going on right around us so I would wager it’s coming from that 100 Mile area, because they’ve still got big fires burning down that way, and that’s the direction it‘s bringing smoke from,” said Nickle.

BC Wildfire Service is planned ignition for the Flat Lake fire is to remove unburned fuels between the fire perimeter and established control lines - either roads and wide paths cleared by heavy machinery. A controlled burn is used to push the fire towards more accessible locations for firefighting crews armed with water hoses and backed by air support to attack the flames on the edge of the fire.

Nickel said the Cariboo region close to Kamloops has received only about an hour of rainfall in the past month, as opposed to the central Interior, where there has been significant rainfall on several days this month, most of which has come in the past 10 days.

“I don’t know that we’re seeing a lot of smoke coming off any of our fires right now,” said Nickel. “Everything that looks of note is down in the Cariboo because I don’t think we’ve seen a lot of action at Cutoff (Creek) and Grizzly (Lake). Those have been pretty calm, activity-wise.”

Five of the 49 fires in the Prince George Fire Centre (northeast quarter of the province) are considered fires of note. The largest is the Cutoff Creek fire, at 23,310 ha. Forty-five firefighters and two helicopters are being used to combat that blaze, about 90 km south of Fraser Lake. Grizzly Mountain, 30 km south of Cluculz Lake, is also being held. It involved 4,891 ha of forested land, with 50 firefighters and one helicopter involved.

The Mount Porter fire east of Germundsen Landing and north of Manson Creek is being held at 13,659 ha. BCWS has 23 firefighters on the scene, with a crew of 10 tied to the structure protection unit keeping watch over buildings at Manson Creek.

Firefighting crews had moderate success conducting a planned ignition Friday at the Tentfire Creek fire, 25 km southwest of Tumbler Ridge. It remains out of control, covering 2.400 ha.

The Forres Mountain fire near Ingenika, northwest of Mackenzie, is considered a monitor-only fire. If it begins to threaten more trigger points, Nickle said crews will be activated to fight it.

The province reported there were 241 wildfires still burning Saturday morning. The Kamloops fire centre has 81 of those fires, while the southeast zone has 65. Since April 1, B.C. has had 1,261 wildfires which have burnt 470,784 ha of land. One hectare is equivalent to the size of the infield area inside of the 400-metre running track at Masich Place Stadium.

As of Saturday, there were 2,073 BC Wildfire Service personnel, 1,165 contractors and 297 out-of-province firefighters dedicated to fighting B.C. fires, with 202 aircraft and 508 pieces of heavy equipment being used.

Sixty evacuation orders (involving 3,120 properties) and 97 evacuation alerts (affecting 18,335 people) have been issued this fire season.

Environment Canada has issued a special air quality advisory for Prince George that carries over into Sunday. Wildfire smoke can cause increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches and shortness of breath. Children, seniors and people with cardiovascular or lung diseases such as asthma are especially at risk. Avoid heavy exercise and try to stay indoors as much as possible to avoid exposure to the smoke.

A heat warning remains in effect for today and Sunday in Prince George. The high today is expected to hit 32 C, while Sunday’s high should reach 29 C. There is a 30 per cent chance of showers Sunday morning and a 60 per cent chance of thundershowers that afternoon. Monday’s predicted high is 29 C.