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UPDATED: St. Mary's River not responding to suppression efforts

Lone Sheep Publishing
By Lone Sheep Publishing
July 18th, 2023

The BC Wildfire Service continues to pour resources into the St. Mary's River wildfire.

According to the BC Wildfire Service, the fire size as of Saturday morning was 4,093 hectares.

The BC Wildfire Service said the wildfire continues to spread and is not responding to suppression efforts.

"This incident is quite visible from the City of Cranbrook and surrounding areas, while we understand that residents want to watch fire and suppression activities; we must ask that the public stay away from the area for safety reasons," the post on the BC Wildfire Service Facebook said.

"Suppression work in the Bummers Flats area is at risk of being slowed by the large volume of residents and public in the area. People on foot and vehicles are blocking the only access and egress (exit) road. Wildfires are dynamic and can change quickly, egress routes are critical for response efforts. This public activity is causing an unsafe situation for both public and responders."

The BC Wildfire Service said as this is an active wildfire worksite, ONLY responders and support personnel are allowed in the vicinity.

"Please leave the area immediately and stay away from the area so that valuable suppression time and effort does not have to be diverted," the BC Wildfire Service said.

The BC Wildfire Service said there are four Initial Attack crews and four Unit Crews responding to this wildfire with 232 personnel including BC Wildfire personnel, contract crews, single resources, and structure protection personnel.

There is an American 20-person engine crew arrived and began Friday July 21st.

The wildfire is being supported in the air by eight helicopters and on the ground by 16 pieces of heavy equipment.

The weather continues to be hot, with temperatures in the low 30s C for Sunday and Monday before dropping slightly during the week.

There is no precipitation is expected in the long range forecast.

Previous Story:

St. Mary’s River now mapped at 2,600 hectares, Evacuation Alert for Canadian Rockies Airport

The BC Wildfire Service said Thursday the estimated size of the St. Mary’s River fire has ballooned 2,600 hectares.

“A response officer was able to fly the fire (Thursday) afternoon to obtain an accurate track of the fire,” The BC Wildfire Service said.

“The size is now mapped at 2,600 hectares. This growth is a result of the increased fire activity that occurred during the peak burning period on Wednesday, July 20th.”

As a result, the Regional District of East Kootenay has issued an Evacuation Alert for the Canadian Rockies International Airport.

While the Airport remains open, flights — including Friday's the 6:55 a.m. Cranbrook to Calgary flight — has been cancelled.

BC Wildfire Service St. Mary's River fire Information:

  • Resources on the fire today include 5 Initial Attack & 3 Unit Crews; 182 personnel including BC Wildfire personnel, contract crews, single resources, and structure protection personnel; 16 pieces of heavy equipment; 57 structure protection personnel.
  • There are 6 helicopters assigned to this incident including 3 heavy-lift helicopters. Airtankers remain assigned and a skimmer group is staged out of Kamloops.
  • The majority of the fire activity from peak burning period Thursday has been in the area north of the airport and west of the mission road. The fire has spread towards and north of the airport. Ground crews, heavy equipment, and aviation resources are actively working in the area in an attempt to contain further growth.
  • The Spring prescribed burn continues to hold the fire's progression in the area east of the airport.
  • The planned ignition from the Mission Road to Francis Lake held during the peak burning period.
  • A small section to the northeast has had skimmers working on it continuously to keep the humidity up.
  • Machine guard is in place off of the Wycliffe Cherry Creek Road south towards the airport.
  • There is a night crew of heavy equipment in place to support potential overnight operations in this area as needed.
  • Structure assessments and protection are ongoing in all alerted and ordered areas.

The BC Wildfire Services has implemented an Area Restriction Order for the vicinity of St. Mary’s River Wildfire which originated 12 kilometers northeast of Cranbrook.

This area restriction reflects the need to protect the public in areas where fire suppression activities are taking place.

This restriction is currently in effect and will remain in effect until 12:00 noon (PDT) on September 30, 2023, or until rescinded. The order applies to Crown land within the geographic boundaries described below and outlined in the provided map.

Area Restriction Order details:

See map click here.

Commencing where Cherry Creek crosses the LD Ranch Rd on west side of Kootenay River (Point #1 – 49° 41.278', -115° 42.941'), then north following west side of Kootenay River along the high water mark to the junction of Hwy 93 and Hwy 95A (Point #2 – 49° 48.630', -115° 46.126') then following Hwy 95A South / South East to where the power line crosses Hwy 95A (Point #3 – 49° 41.610', -115° 50.080'), then following power line South- South-East to where it crosses Wycliffe-Cherry Creek Rd (Point #4 – 49° 39.103', -115° 51.050'), then following Wycliffe-Cherry Creek Rd East then South to the junction of Wycliffe-Cherry Creek Rd and Mission Wycliffe Rd (Point #5 – 49° 36.325', -115° 51.791'), then follow Mission Wycliffe Rd East/ North-East to junction of Mission Wycliffe Rd and Airport Access Rd (Point #6 – 49° 36.236', -115° 47.756'), then roughly 100m NE along Airport Access Rd (Point #7 – 49° 36.366', -115° 47.389'), then directly North to Wycliffe Cherry Creek Rd (Point #8 – 49° 39.661', -115° 47.413'), then West along Wycliffe Cherry Creek Rd approximately 1.5 kms (Point #9 – 49° 39.574', -115° 48.693'), then North / Northwest to Cherry Creek (Point #10) following Cherry Creek East back to point of commencement.

Failure to comply with Section 11 restricted area requirements may result in a violation ticket of $1,150.

Previous Story:

 St. Mary's River wildfire grows, prompts Evacuations Orders, Alerts

Late Wednesday, the Regional District of East Kootenay pursuant to Section 12 (1) of the BC Emergency Program Act issued an Evacuation Order to 15 Properties in the Woods Corner East Area due to immediate danger to life safety caused by the St. Mary’s River wildfire.

The RDEK said that members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and other applicable agencies will be expediting this action. The Evacuation Order is in effect for the following areas:

  • 4165, 4371, 4491, 4829, 4901 LD RANCH ROAD
  • 8285, 8287, 8291 OLSEN ROAD
  • 4450, 4481 PETER ROAD
  • 8202 SAWMILL LAKE ROAD
  • 4083, 4090, 4105, 4166 WOODS ROAD

This Evacuation Order comes on the heels of the RDEK issuing a State of Local Emergency Order due to the existing or imminent threat to people and property in Electoral Area E.

The State of Local Emergency Order, issued by RDEK Board Chair Rob Gay, will remain in force for the next seven days, until July 26th.

The BC Wildfire Service said the fire has grown to 850 hectares, and is expected to grow in size Thursday.

The BC Wildfire Service said there are four Initial Attack crews and 2 Unit Crews responding to the wildfire with 105 personnel, including BC Wildfire, contract crews and single resources.

Additionally, the BC Wildfire Service said City of Cranbrook and Kimberley firefighters are on site.

The BC Wildfire Service has also deployed Skimmers, which are utilizing Moyie Lake as the water source to respond to this incident.

The public is advised to avoid using areas of Moyie Lake as the aircraft require a large area to operate safely and any watercraft can obstruct operations which can force Skimmers to divert.

There are also 10 pieces of heavy equipment at the St. Mary's Wildfire.

The RDEK has issued an Evacuation Order to 15 Properties in the Woods Corner East Area (See Attached Map):

Evacuation Alert issued in East Kootenay due to St. Mary's River wildfire

The Regional District of East Kootenay Emergency Operations Centre and ʔaq'am have issued Evacuations Alerts due to the proximity of the St. Mary's River Wildfire.

Evacuation Alerts were issued due to potential danger of life and health for the following areas in the Kootenay Indian Reserve No 1 and Electorial Area C & E.

The 35 properties between St. Mary’s River, Kootenay River and Hwy 93/95 and on the Kootenay Indian Reserve No 1 include:

  • 15 through 154 Campsall Rd
  • 315, 317, and 9851 Hwy 93/95
  • 5461, 5467, 5479 Mission -Fort Steele Rd
  • 9471, 9595, 9636, 9637 Buckman Rd
  • 4829, 4901, 8425, 8450 LD Ranch Rd
  • 8285, 8287, 8291 Olsen Rd
  • Residents will be given as much advance notice as possible prior to evacuation; however you may receive limited notice due to changing conditions.

BC Wildfire Service website said the St. Mary's fire, 800 hectares in size, was likely caused by downed power lines.

The St. Mary’s River wildfire, not responding to suppression efforts of three Initial Attack Crews and 2 Unit Crews, remains out of control and continues to spreads.

There are currently 17 wildfires in the Southeast Fire Centre and 392 active wildfires in the Province of BC.

The attached map shows the properties under Evacuation Alert.

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