'Burn off operation' responsible for huge column of smoke coming from Sitkum Creek Wildfire; Martin Mars helps fight Akokli Creek fire on East Shore of Kootenay Lake
Residents concerned about the huge column of smoke coming from the Sitkum Creek wildfire north of Nelson Saturday afternoon can be rest assured BC Wildfire Service crews have everything under control.
Fire Information Officer for the Southeast Fire Centre, Karlie Shaughnessy, told The Nelson Daily the smoke is due to “burn off operations.”
“That column of smoke is a result of successful burn off operations today,” Shaughnessy said Saturday afternoon.
“Nothing has changed with the fire as everything is gone as planned today.”
“(The smoke) is due to burn off operations although it will be smoky for the next few days,” Shaughnessy added.
It appeared between 3-4 p.m., the Sitkum Creek wildfire sparked up as flames could be seen from Nelson.
However, BC Wildfire Service said the fire is located in very steep, dangerous terrain therefore; this burn out is necessary to limit the potential growth and direction of the fire with the objective to secure the north flank on Duhamel Creek.
There are 79 firefighters currently battling the 530-hectare blaze that when it first was reported July 4, caused the Regional District of Central Kootenay to issue an evacuation alert for the Willow Point, Six Mile, Sitkum Creek region.
The alert has since been rescinded as the wildfire is 50 percent contained.
Seven helicopters were assisting the ground crew with four pieces of heavy equipment.
Shaughnessy confirmed the Martin Mars water bomber, a Second World War-era vintage craft, was in the region to help with the seven-hectare Akokli Creek fire east of Boswell on Highway 3A on the East Shore of Kootenay Lake.
“The Martin Mars was brought in to support ground staff and it’s actually heading back to base on Sproat Lake on Vancouver Island,” Shaughnessy confirmed.
Shaughnessy said air tankers did lay some retardant on the lines (Friday) but due to the steepness of the terrain the retardant wasn’t sticking as well as it should have.
“Due to the steep terrain Martin Mars was brought in to lay moisture around the ground to dampen everything to give ground crews time to build that line,” Shaughnessy explained.
Shaughnessy said the Akokli Creek wildfire, which was caused by lightning, was originally reported (Saturday) July 11.
The wildfire was contained, but sparked up this week.
Shaughnessy said there are 19 firefighters on the ground and two helicopters battling the Akokli Creek blaze.
The Martin Mars can blanket an area of 1.2 to 1.6 hectares.
Because of its size it is only capable of landing on about 113 bodies of water in B.C.
However, Kootenay Lake is one of those bodies of water that can be used by the Martin Mars.
Shaughnessy could not confirm how many drops the Martin Mars make on the Akokli Creek wildfire.
To report a wildfire or open burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone.
For the latest information on current wildfire activity, burning restrictions, road closures and air quality advisories, go to: http://www.bcwildfire.ca