A powerful storm front that moved through the West Kootenay sparked several new fires on Tuesday.
The storm brought a bit of rain, and even hail, but it was the lightning the caused headaches for firefighting officials.
The biggest trouble was in Trail, where a fire in the McQuarrie Creek area above the city’s hospital and high school had local and provincial fire crews busy.
The Southeast Fire Centre responded quickly to the fire, sending 25 ground crew, air tankers and helicopters to the scene. Local fire departments also responded. Locals watched the firefighting efforts from their homes, as the smoke and fire was easily visible from most of the community.
As of Wednesday morning, the fire was estimated to be one hectare.
The lightning storm also started two fires near Castlegar. A small fire was discovered at Cai Creek east of Castlegar in the Bonnington Range, and a new outbreak began at Coykendahl, south of the stubborn Bulldog Mountain fire on the west shore of Arrow Lakes, in the Syringa Fire Complex.
Renata evacuees can return
But with cooler evenings, lower daytime temperatures and a smattering of rain, fire crews are making progress. On Tuesday the Regional District of Central Kootenay downgraded the evacuation order for Renata to an alert.
This reduction to an alert means residents can return to their properties but must be prepared to leave should conditions change.
Further, the evacuation alert previously in effect for Brooklyn and south-east to Shields Point was rescinded.
“The BC Wildfire Service has advised that imminent danger to the life and property of persons due the Bulldog Mountain wildfire has diminished, so those who previously were required to evacuate can return home,” said Andrew Bellerby, the RDCK emergency operations centre director and regional fire chief.
The Bulldog Mountain wildfire is being managed as part of the Syringa Complex of fires. It was discovered on Aug. 11, and is suspected to have been caused by lightning. The fire is approximately 2,125 hectares in size. BC Wildfire is still actively responding to the fire with firefighting crews, aviation support and heavy equipment.
BC Wildfire has informed the RDCK that they have good control lines on the fire adjacent to Renata, but they still recommend an alert remain in place until rain arrives.
On the other side of the lake, the Syringa Creek wildfire continues to stubbornly resist firefighters. At nearly 3,200 hectares, the fire is only 25 per cent contained. Heavy timber and rough terrain is making firefighting difficult. The Southeast Fire Centre has 123 firefighters and 12 helicopters working the complex of fires, and on Monday started hand-burning part of the area to reduce the fire’s available fuel.
An evacuation alert remains in place for Syringa Provincial Park and southeast along Lower Arrow Lake to the Hugh Keenleyside Dam in Robson.
North of Syringa Creek, the Deer Creek fire also continues to grow. Now at just under 4,050 hectares, the Southeast Fire Centre has 81 firefighters on the scene, building machine guards and mopping up and patrolling the southern flank.
Fire crews planned to begin small-scale hand ignition operations on Wednesday if conditions permitted.