Small fires popping up in hills above Ashcroft, Cache Creek

By Chad Klassen
July 14, 2017 - 5:30pm Updated: July 14, 2017 - 7:12pm

ASHCROFT, B.C. — One week since the Ashcroft Reserve wildfire took off, small spot size fires can still be seen in the backcountry near Ashcroft — many popping up in the heat of the day. 

"It's certainly an out of control wildfire still, so while portions of the fire are in the mop-up and are quite cool, there's still sections that are uncontained," said division supervisor with the B.C. Wildfire Service Joshua Macy. 

In the hills across the highway from Ashcroft and Cache Creek, one doesn't have to look far for evidence of a fast-moving fire that came through starting Thursday and into Friday, leaving behind nothing but burned out trailers in the hills above --- and down below burned out homes in communities like Boston Flats, which lost all but three units.  

"There was some rank four and five fire behaviour happening the night of this fire, candling right to the top of the hillside," said Fire Information Officer Mike McCulley. "Most of the organics are completely gone, so that's an indication of how really fast-moving and dangerous this fire was."

While the fire has been slowly been moving north, firefighters up on the hill, including a crew from Alberta, are putting out the hot spots and ensuring the fire remains on the hill and doesn't creep down below near homes in Ashcroft and Cache Creek.

"This fire threatens the communities of Ashcroft and Cache Creek, so our objective here is to secure any progression toward the communities so we can get people back in their homes," noted Macy. 

Part of the fire crews' job is controlled burning, ensuring all remaining fuel can't ignite another big startup. 

"For burn-off operations, we send some CATs through the bush to clear out some of the heavier fuels and give us a line to work from," said Alberta firefighter Graham MacAulay. "Then we start a fire at that guard and burn in towards the main fire itself. This reinforces the line and gives us a stronger defensible position and helps contain the fire that way."

The fire is continuing up north on Highway 97, forcing evacuations in the community of Loon Lake and creeping closer to Clinton. But with a shift in the winds this weekend, that could quickly change.

"Loon Lake is under evacuation order, and there's no order or alert near Clinton," said McCulley. "Having said that, we know the winds are very big and strong, and we're going to be focusing our efforts to try to protect those communities."

The B.C. Wildfire Service warned the strong winds, which could reach 70 kilometres an hour on Saturday, could shift south and move the fire back towards Cache Creek, which is why an evacuation order remains in that community.  

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