New Monte Lake fire being held, impacting airport operations

By Jill Sperling
August 1, 2017 - 3:15pm Updated: August 1, 2017 - 5:38pm

KAMLOOPS — The Martin Mountain fire north of Monte Lake is now 100 per cent contained, but a new fire in the area proves the wildfire risk remains extremely high. 

The fire, located at the south end of the lake near the campground, sparked late Monday afternoon, closing the highway in both directions. 

The new fire is located less than five kilometres from the Martin Mountain fire that forced Monte Lake residents out of their homes last week. 

"Our response yesterday was very rapid," said fire information officer Max Birkner. "We brought 34 firefighters up there, as well as helicopters and airtankers, and they knocked down that fire fairly quickly, and it is now being held, so their progress has been very quick on that fire."

The fire caused the closure of Highway 97 at Monte Lake as airtankers and helicopters circled overhead. 

By morning, the highway had re-opened, and the fire was mapped at 3.9 hectares with 23 firefighters remaining on scene. 

"There are structures in the area of Monte Lake, fortunately with the quick action that was taken on that fire those structures are not threatened at this time," Birkner said. 

Although it remains relatively small, Kamloops Airport manager Fred Legace says the new fire is impacting airport operations.

"The new Monte Lake fire, there's an airspace seclusion over that one, so it's interfering with some of the aircraft's ability to approach the airport as well, so between the smoke and that it's really had an effect on flights so far today," Legace said.  "We're not anticipating that this is going to have a major change throughout the day, so we could see some significant effects even as the day continues."

Several flights in and out of the airport have been delayed or cancelled, and passengers are encouraged to contact their air carriers to check on individual flights. 

"What are you going to do? There's absolutely nothing you can do," Legace said, "this is Mother Nature at her finest, and we need to be able to just roll with it. Unfortunately, it's interfering with peoples' travel plans, but it's better to be safe on the ground than wondering what to do in the air."

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