Crews withdraw from Cranbrook-area wildfire

Sept. 8, 2017, Cranbrook, B.C. – The BC Wildfire Service says the unprecedented, aggressive behaviour of three blazes in southeastern British Columbia has forced firefighting crews to withdraw from the area.

Fire information officer Karlie Shaughnessy says a grouping of three smaller fires in the Flathead area east of Cranbrook is not threatening any homes or structures, but unpredictable activity prompted the pull out.

The combined size of the fires is about 26 square kilometres and the wildfire service says none are contained.

Crews are also working to control several other wildfires in southeastern British Columbia.

Those include a 16-square-kilometre blaze just outside the East Kootenay community of Moyie that has forced evacuations in the Moyie Lake area.

It was sparked by lightning on Sept. 7, and the wildfire service says it remains uncontained and very active with 48 firefighters, three helicopters and 14 pieces of equipment assigned.

Shaughnessy says the flare up of the Flathead area fires is concerning.

”This happened when we issued the Rocky Mountain backcountry restriction, just because a lot of these fires burning in the backcountry were displaying very aggressive behaviour and were unpredictable,” she says, adding crew safety is always the first priority.

Heavy smoke from wildfires continues to blanket most of the lower two-thirds of British Columbia, prompting air quality advisories, but Environment Canada is calling for showers in many of the fire-plagued regions Friday and Saturday.

The wildfire service says a sustained downpour will be needed to help douse any of the blazes, but conditions have eased slightly in the Okanagan and central Interior where scores of fires continue to burn.

The Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre says it has rescinded an evacuation alert for properties about 20 kilometres east of Kelowna as the fire off nearby Highway 33 is now 70 per cent contained.

A blaze near Peachland on the west side of Okanagan Lake has forced evacuation orders and alerts, but crews continue to build guards and the wildfire service says the flames are 15 per cent contained.

South of Vanderhoof in the Prince George fire centre, the province says access has been restored to areas previously cut off by wildfires and an evacuation order in the southwest Chilcotin area has also been downgraded to an alert by the Cariboo Regional District and a local First Nation. (CHBZ, The Canadian Press)

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