Battling the blaze A helicopter carrying a Bambi-type bucket carries its load up towards the Thuya Lake fire southwest of Little Fort on Friday afternoon, July 14. Photo by Keith McNeill

Little Fort fires create turmoil

Multiple difficulties arising from Thuya Lake and Dunn Lake fires

By Keith McNeill

Many residents of the Little Fort to Clearwater area had a stressful and somewhat confusing time of it last week. While it appears one crisis now is over, more difficulties might still be to come – at least until there is sustained and heavy rain.

The situation began Friday afternoon, July 7 when a lightning storm passed through the area, igniting a fire southwest of Little Fort near Thuya Lake forest service road, and a series of fires to the northeast of Little Fort and west of Dunn Lake.

Little Fort was ordered evacuated that evening. The evacuation order for Little Fort was rescinded on Tuesday, July 11. The community remains on evacuation alert, however.

Other evacuation orders and alerts were issued, most notably as a cold front approached the B.C. Interior on Saturday, with expected high winds and more lightning.

As of Monday, July 17, the areas around Dunn Lake, Hallamore Lake and East Blackpool were under evacuation order.

Clearwater, Blackpool (on the west side of the river), Upper Clearwater and Little Fort were on evacuation alert.

Evacuation alert means get ready to leave; evacuation order means it’s time to go.

Firefighting efforts so far have focussed on controlling the Thuya Lake fire because of the threat it poses to the power-line serving the valley plus to Highway 5.

That fire showed little movement during Saturday’s cold front. However, the Dunn Lake fire moved about two kilometers north to the junction of Dunn Lake Road and Auldgirth Road.

As of Monday morning, the Dunn Lake fire was reported to be 3,040 ha in size and was 30 per cent contained.

The Thuya Lake fire was put at 565 ha in size (increase in size due to better mapping) and was 50 per cent contained.

The Lemieux Creek fire (1032) was 16 ha in size and 50 per cent contained.

On Saturday evening, Interior Health announced that it was evacuating Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital in Clearwater.

Canfor announced on Sunday morning that it was closing its Vavenby Division and suspending all forestry operations.

Also on Sunday, District of Clearwater issued a boil water order because of debris in the gravity-fed portion of its system.

On Monday, the district announced that it had received a generator donated by Highland Valley to back up its water supply.