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Tinderbox East Kootenay

The Whitetail Brook fire, now at 650 hectares, is visible from Canal Flats but continues to burn away from the community.  - Photo courtesy Lizzie Midyette/Columbia Valley Pioneer
The Whitetail Brook fire, now at 650 hectares, is visible from Canal Flats but continues to burn away from the community.
— image credit: Photo courtesy Lizzie Midyette/Columbia Valley Pioneer

A lightning storm in the East Kootenay on Tuesday sparked 31 new fires, on top of several other significant fires being fought by the Wildfire Management Branch.

Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park will remain closed for the long weekend as 100 firefighters continue to battle the now 950-hectare Whitetail Brook fire. There are seven helicopters and 14 pieces of heavy equipment working to contain it, and it is now 10 per cent contained. Growth continues to be to the northeast, away from Canal Flats. No communities or structures are threatened.

Whiteswan Forest Service Road is closed from the highway to the 32-kilometre mark. Kootenay Forest Service Road is also closed from the three-kilometre mark to the junction with White Rock Forest Service Road at 34.5 kilometres. And White Rock Forest Service Road is entirely closed.

As well as the closure of Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park and its popular campsite, the road closures mean there is no access to Top of the World Provincial Park.

The Wildfire Management Branch says that access to Palliser Forest Service Road is available from Settler Road in Kootenay National Park. Drivers are asked to cross Kootenay Forest Service Road at the Ravenhead junction.

Those wishing to float down the Kootenay River from Settler Road are asked not to while the area closures are in place.

There are another eight smaller fires in the Whiteswan area, all lightning caused, ranging in size from 100 square metres to a 10 hectare fire just northeast of Whiteswan Lake.

Meanwhile, the Wildfire Management Branch is working to contain a 10-hectare fire near Koocanusa. Caused by lightning, the Kikomun Creek fire started on Tuesday, July 29 and is being actioned by 16 firefighters, air tankers and helicopters, with the assistance of the Jaffray/Baynes Lake fire department.

No communities or structures are threatened by the fire.

There is also a small fire nearby, 11 kilometres south of Baynes Lake. A three-person attack crew was working on that fire, also lightning caused.

Elsewhere in the East Kootenay, a spot fire is burning near Finley Creek, west of Canal Flats, and another small lightning-caused fire southwest of St. Mary Lake.

The Wildfire Management Branch is urging those who are camping this weekend to be extra careful with campfires as crews are busy with naturally caused fires, and human-caused fires are preventable.

Bring a shovel or keep at least eight litres of water nearby to properly extinguish your campfire.

Campfires cannot be larger than 0.5 metres in height and 0.5 metres in diameter.

Do not light a campfire or keep it burning in windy conditions. Weather can change quickly and the wind may carry embers to other combustible material and start new fires.

You must maintain a one-metre fireguard around the campfire. This is a fuel-free area where all flammable materials (grass, kindling, etc.) have been removed.

Never leave a campfire unattended.

Make sure that the campfire is completely extinguished and the ashes are cold to the touch before leaving the area for any length of time.

To report a wildfire or unattended campfire, call 1-800-663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone.

 

 

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