Bolean fire puts residents on edge

As smoke billows over Falkland, making residents nervous, crews are working overtime to battle the stubborn Bolean Lake Fire

As smoke billows over Falkland, making residents nervous, crews are working overtime to battle the stubborn Bolean Lake Fire.

Referred to as the Bolean Lake Fire, the fire is actually two fires. The first fire above Chase-Falkland Road is believed to have been caused by lightning. An ember from the original fire sparked a second blaze closer to Bolean Lake.

As of Wednesday afternoon  the fire closer to Chase Creek Road was approximately 183 hectares. And the fire on a plateau closer to Bolean Lake had grown to 165 hectares.

It is burning just five kilometres northwest of Falkland and 22 kilometres southwest of Salmon Arm.

“What you see is only part of what we’re dealing with,” said Derek Williams, incident commander with B.C. Wildfire Service.

The evacuation order for Bolean Lake Lodge remains in effect, as well as an evacuation alert for 24 properties.

“The good news is that the lodge that is in the area is not threatened at this time,” said fire information officer Navi Saini.

Structural Protection Units are on scene but not yet needed for the Bolean Lake blaze. Still, with the memory of the 2003 Whispering Pines wildfire devastation, residents are concerned.

“Some people are a little scared,” said Falkland Fire Department Deputy Chief Neil Bourgh, as firefighters have been speaking to residents and trying to ease concerns. “There’s obviously some anxiety in the community,” said Ryan Nitchie, information officer for the Shuswap Emergency Program. “Many of the residents who are on the evacuation alert have been moving horses and cattle just as a precautionary measure.”

Columbia Shuswap Regional District Area D director Rene Talbot says the biggest issue is not knowing.

“Some of the flames were 300, 400, 500 feet in the air and that’s what really worries people when they see that, because they don’t know,” said Talbot.

“People are a little worried and some of them are seniors and they don’t move very quick.”

Salmon Arm residents have no cause for alarm despite continuing references to fires on the Fly Hills.

“Geographically, the fires are at least 22 kilometres from Salmon Arm on the Bolean Plateau,” says fire protection officer Larry Osachoff, reiterating that fire crews followed up on reports of fires on Fly Hills and in the Charcoal Creek drainage system and found nothing. “Nobody in Falkland is referring to it as the Fly Hills fire.”

Meanwhile, winds on the Falkland Fire have proven difficult for crews and air support, as has the steep terrain.

But crews have been battling the fire since Monday, with a peak of 50 firefighters on scene Tuesday.

“That’s one level of the commitment we have invested in this lower portion of the fire,” said Williams. “It’s also a reflection of how we are trying to prioritize our resources and get the right amount of staff with everything else that is going on.”

In the Kamloops Fire Centre there have been more than 50 new fires sparked since Sunday evening, 43 of those caused by lightning.

“It seems every hour or so we are getting more interface fires,” said Saini. “Our initial attack crews are super busy right now.”

Fire Information Officer Kelsey Winter notes there have been seven new wildfires in the Salmon Arm Fire Zone since Monday.

The Wap Creek Fire remains spot sized and is in initial attack status. The cause is under investigation.

The Grassy Lake Fire remains spot sized and is now out. The cause is believed to have been lightning.

The Noisy Creek Fire remains spot sized and is in patrol status. The cause is believed to have been lightning.

The Yard Creek Fire remains spot sized and is in modified response status. The cause is believed to have been lightning.

The fire four kilometres west of Bain Creek remains spot sized and is in initial attack status. The cause is believed to have been lightning.

The Ukulele Road Fire remains spot sized and is in patrol status. The cause is believed to have been human caused but is under investigation.

Hot and dry weather conditions have once again elevated the fire danger rating throughout the Kamloops Fire Centre and many areas are currently experiencing high to extreme ratings.

“Each person-caused fire diverts critical resources away from natural, lightning-caused fires,” said Winter, urging extreme caution.

– With files from Barb Brouwer.