Some Robson Valley crews returning home; others on alert

A tongue of the Thuya Lake fire southwest of Little Fort works its way downhill, getting perilously close to the BC Hydro power-line that services the upper North Thompson Valley. During the wildfires of 2003 the power-line was cut south of Barriere, leaving the valley without power for some time. Having adequate electricity would be important for keeping Clearwater’s and other water systems charged to help combat any fire inside a community. In the foreground is one of two helicopters that were dropping buckets of water on the blaze. / Photo courtesy Clearwater Times

by EVAN MATTHEWS
There’s a long and significant fire season still ahead, with fires continuing to burn in the Interior and new evacuation alerts in the East Kootenays.
But the Robson Valley remains unscathed, even contributing resources to other regions and fire departments such as Vanderhoof and Quesnel.
“There have been a number of factors contributing to the Robson Valley’s good fortune thus far into the fire season,” says Amanda Reynolds, spokesperson for the Prince George Fire Centre.
“The valley has received less lighting than other areas around the province.
“The region has had some precipitation, not a lot, but some, whereas other areas across the Province have received little to no precipitation,” she says.
Last week, the PG Fire Centre shipped out two Robson Valley Fire Crews to help other local departments. One crew was sent to Quesnel, and the other to Vanderhoof.
“The Crew in Vanderhoof is on alert for any new (fire) starts, so… essentially they are doing what they do in the valley, but just in Vanderhoof,” says Reynolds.
“The crew in Quesnel has been assigned to an incident,” she says, referring to a series of complex fires.
Firefighters on the ground have reported no imminent danger to the surrounding communities, and the PG Fire Centre says crews are being sent to patrol and monitor the fires, while also setting up guards.
The crew in Vanderhoof will be arriving back to the Robson Valley Wednesday to “reset and recharge” and could be deployed again elsewhere, according to Reynolds, while the crew from Quesnel is scheduled to return home Monday August 7th to reset.
“All crews have been working long, 12-14 hour days,” says Reynolds.
One crew stayed in the valley with parattack support, and Reynolds says the region has a more than adequate response ready if need be.
Last week, the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) lifted Evacuation Orders for Williams Lake, allowing thousands of people to return home. Going back further to Jul. 22, (CRD) lifted the Evacuation Order for 100 Mile House, and three days ago, also lifted the Evacuation Alert.
Many of the evacuees from Williams Lake and 100 Mile House either stayed or passed through the valley during the worst of the fires.
Comfort Centres in Valemount and McBride closed down last week, with McBride’s providing aid to over 600 evacuees, according to organizers.
But good fortune thus far doesn’t put the Robson Valley out of the woods just yet.
“Fire season is far from over and we are expected to have hot and dry weather this week and into the weekend, which will increase the fire danger rating across the entire Prince George Fire Centre and Province,” says Reynolds.
The B.C. Wildfire Service is advising all residents to stay up to date with bulletins posted on individual regional district websites.
It is important to understand the distinction between evacuation alerts and orders, according to the B.C. Wildfire Service.
Since April 1, there have been 825 fires across the province, burning more than 426,023 hectares, according to the B.C. Wildfire Service.
As of Aug. 1, there were 138 wildfires active wildfires burning in the province.

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