The Alkali Lake and South Stikine River fire near Telegraph Creek are still showing significant fire activity. The fires are expected to merge into one. (BC Wildfire Service photo)

Volatile Telegraph Creek wildfires expected to merge

Fire crews will be flown in to protect threatened village if road is compromised

The two wildfires threatening Telegraph Creek are now expected to merge into one, if they haven’t already, BC Wildfire Service said in a Tweet this afternoon.

Alkali Lake blaze now covers 9,000 hectares to the north of the community, while the neighbouring South Stikine River wildfire has expanded significantly in the past 24 hours to 19,000 hectares. For the past couple of days the two volatile fires have been creating their own weather, pulling toward each other.

On-site fire information officer Jody Lucius said it’s not confirmed if the fires have yet merged, but in the event of the highway being compromised ground crews will likely be flown in to resume structural protection of Telegraph Creek.

“The road has been compromised a few times already in the last few days, so we’ll be keeping an eye on that. But if needed, I assume, crews will be flown in and out as they were yesterday.

Additional ground crews and air support arrived last night offering structural protection of the village. In all, 95 firefighters, heavy equipment and 10 helicopters are fighting the blaze with one air tanker on standby.

Twenty-seven structures were impacted yesterday, accounting for about 40 per cent of the village. None have been reported lost since.

READ MORE: 27 structures lost in ‘volatile’ wildfire

In a press teleconference today Doug Donaldson, B.C. minister of forests and Stikine MLA for the Telegraph Creek area, said these fires are a top concern for the province.

He noted the fire season is presenting exceptional challenges over 2017 due to major fires of note currently in every Fire Zone, amounting to 462 active fires with 22 evacuation alerts and 17 evacuation orders in place. The 2,500 people affected by the Telegraph Creek fires is the largest impact in B.C.

READ MORE: No B.C. region left untouched with 462 fires burning

Due to conflicting reports, BC Wildfire Service stresses Dease Lake is not under an evacuation order, but an evacuation alert is active to its western boundary.

“We certainly have a good idea of when an order will be put in place,” fire information officer Heather Rice said. “But we are not at that stage yet, and won’t be to the best of my knowledge at all. But it depends on the weather and the winds do over the next couple of days.”

Social media posts indicate some residents have stayed behind to protect their properties, but at this time the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine cannot confirm the numbers.

Emergency Support Services units have been set up in Dease Lake, Terrace and Smithers.

READ MORE: Wildfire evacuees asked to check in with ESS


 


quinn@terracestandard.com

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