Air support grounded as fires fill the skies with smoke

Update Aug. 19 1:25 p.m.

A majority of air support is still grounded in the Kamloops Fire Centre.

“It’s all come down to safety, if it isn’t safe to go they won’t, but if they do get an opportunity they certainly will go in to help,” said Shelley Zupp, information officer with BC Wildfire Service.

Crews will continue to extinguish wildfires from the ground and will be driven onto scene instead of flown in until the smoke dissipates.

Original Aug. 18 7:44 p.m.

—Andrea DeMeer

Heavy smoke throughout the region thwarted efforts of BC Wildfire Saturday, as helicopters and air tankers were grounded in the Kamloops Fire Centre.

“It does present quite a few challenges,” said Marla Catherall, fire information officer. “It’s definitely not ideal.”

When visibility is poor aircraft cannot assist in suppression efforts, said Catherall. Pilots are also unable to conduct surveillance and spot fires.

“If we don’t have eyes in the sky, we can’t detect the new ones.”

Compounding that issue, people on the ground have no clear view.

Related: Heroes in the sky – fighting BC wildfires from the air

“We really rely on the public to report fires,” said Catherall. “If you can’t see across the street you can’t see a fire.”

The Kamloops Fire Centre has 25 helicopters under contract, and there are currently 58 wildfires in the region.

Catherall could not confirm there was zero air activity in the region Saturday but said: “there was very minimal flying.”

Related: Smoky skies like a disappearing act for sights, monuments around B.C.

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andrea.demeer@similkameenspotlight.com

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