VANCOUVER — Fire officials in British Columbia’s Central Okanagan spent much of Sunday fighting fire with fire.
Crews tackling the 88-square-kilometre Terrace Mountain blaze, north of Kelowna, started a controlled burn on the fire’s north slope.
The blaze, which has forced 2,150 residents from their homes and put another 2,500 on evacuation alert, could be seen throughout the region, as thick plumes of smoke billowed overhead.
Fire officials say such burn-offs can come with some risks, but leaving the fire’s fate up to the winds was even riskier.
“We are lighting a fire and if a wind were to pick up, then it has the potential to spread further,” said Alyson Couch, a fire information officer with the B.C. Forest Service.
That sudden gust of wind could create a disastrous scenario in which the blaze started by fire crews is responsible for damaging homes.
“But the thing is, when (crews) do burn-offs, they won’t do them unless conditions are absolutely perfect,” Couch said.
The Terrace Mountain fire was discovered July 18 and is believed to be human-caused. It is currently 40 per cent contained.
The fire was 90 per cent contained at one point, allowing evacuees to return home. But those same residents were again ordered out of their homes two days later when the fire again came down the hill.
Thousands of British Columbians were ordered out of their homes in the last month as fires threatened several communities, from Bella Coola on the central coast to Lillooet, north of Vancouver.
Couch said the number of new fire starts, which reached approximately 200 per day just two weeks ago, is now down to about 20.
“The rain is helping us in reducing the number of fire starts,” she said.