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Firebreaks, controlled burns help surround B.C.’s bigger wildfires

Helicopters, ground crews attack between wildfire edge, firebreak
B.C. forest firefighter lights a backburn to remove fuel from an area to keep a wildfire from spreading, 2017. (B.C. Wildfire Service)

B.C. Wildfire Service crews watched the wind and spread activity of the Deka Lake fire Monday, preparing a controlled burn that was scrubbed on Sunday after heavy equipment had surrounded it with a firebreak.

One of many touched off by an intense lightning storm that passed through B.C. on June 30, the Deka Lake fire is about 40 km east of 100 Mile House, near Bridge Lake Provincial Park along Highway 24. Estimated at three square km as of July 5, it is one of five “wildfires of note” in the Cariboo Fire Centre region and a dozen major fires province-wide.

“The goal of this operation is to remove the available fuel between the fire’s edge and the fuel free guard,” B.C. Wildfire Service said. “This strategy slows down and helps limit the spread of the wildfire by decreasing the amount of fire perimeter that must be managed by BCWS staff.”

The Deka Lake fire has been assigned 40 firefighters, three helicopters and five pieces of heavy equipment to bulldoze firebreaks and provide access through rough country. The controlled burn is a standard tactic for slowing and containing wildfires, and the province has committed to more of them on a preventive basis as it seeks to reduce fuel built up since the 1940s when timber protection was made the top priority. The forests ministry’s latest plan says it will incorporate the Indigenous tradition of prescribed burns into its management.

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Remote regions like the Deka Lake area east of Lone Butte continue to have more residents, and the fire has prompted evacuation orders for 700 properties. About 50 evacuees turned out at a community meeting Sunday to hear of efforts to get them back to their homes.

More than twice the size at an estimated seven square km, the fire in the Churn Creek Protected Area in the same region has an evacuation order for only two properties. The biggest in the Interior is the Sparks Lake fire north of Kamloops, estimated at 363 square km in size and still out of control as of July 5. It has 164 properties on evacuation order, with almost 1,000 more on standby to leave.


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