The Embleton Mountain wildfire near Whitecroft and Sun Peaks has now been mapped at 466 hectares and remains burning out of control four days after being discovered. However, it is burning away from the two communities as of Monday evening (July 12).
The fire is burning about seven kilometres west of Sun Peaks and about three kilometres west of Whitecroft.
As of Monday, 33 firefighters, including one structure protection specialist, two helicopters and seven pieces of heavy equipment are being used to fight the fire. Three members of the Sun Peaks Fire Department are also assisting, according to the BC Wildfire Service (BCWFS).
The fire is burning in difficult and steep terrain, with unstable slopes and rockslides posing risk to the safety of its crews. Inoperable areas are being monitored and helicopters are being utilized to bucket water into hot spots in the problematic areas, According to the BCWFS, crews are working with the structure protection specialist to protect properties from the interface fire and heavy equipment is being used along the McClure Forest Service Road, north of the blaze, to establish control lines.
The fire has burned predominantly on the eastern and northern side of Embleton Mountain, with the majority of new fire growth on the west flank.
Fire information officer Shannon Street said the incident management team for the blaze, of which she is a part, only recently took over management of the fire.
Street said the team hopes to know more upon visiting the scene.
An evacuation order from the Thompson-Nicola Regional District remains active for 132 properties in and around Whitecroft, with evacuation alerts in effect for another 11 properties north of Whitecroft, three addresses to the south and 156 properties surrounding Heffley Lake in electoral Area P (Rivers and the Peaks).
The resort municipality of Sun Peaks has also issued an evacuation alert for all properties within its boundaries due to the wildfire’s potential effect on the safety of residents in Sun Peaks and on the use of Sun Peaks Road and Heffley Lous Creek Road to leave the village.
Meanwhile, the BCWFS is reporting the Sparks Lake wildfire northwest of Kamloops Lake has not seen much growth over the weekend, sitting now at 40,267 hectares in size.
While the Sparks Lake fire is still listed a burning out of control, the BCWFS is reporting the fire was less active on Sunday than the day before that, but fire activity in the Frog Lake area on the east flank has picked up. Control lines are currently holding as a result of active fire suppression efforts and crews continue to establish guard around the southern tip of the fire, as well as prepare heavy equipment control lines for planned ignitions that are set to occur in the Mount Uren area.
Multiple evacuation orders remain in place for 170 properties in the TNRD, as well as on the Skeetchestn Indian Band reserve. The TNRD has evacuation alerts in place for another 704 properties in the vicinity of the fire.
Currently, 128 firefighters, 10 helicopters and 60 pieces of heavy equipment are being used in actioning the fire. There are also six structure protection units, consisting of 29 people, working to protect structures in the vicinity of the fire.
Street said most of the fire’s activity has been on the southern flank.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, though it is believed to have been human-caused.
Environment Canada issued a heat warning for the Kamloops area and, Street said, crews are “keeping an eye on the heat and making sure everyone stays safe.”
Street asked that people refrain from using drones around wildfires after the BCWFS was forced to temporarily halt air operations on the Kimbol Lake wildfire in the Kootenay area on Saturday due to people operating drones near the fire. This situation resulted in a helicopter being grounded. The airspace around the Kimbol Lake fire is once again clear for firefighting aircraft to operate.
A similar situation occurred in recent days near a wildfire in the Vernon area.
The use of drones near a wildfire is illegal. All wildfires are automatically considered to be flight restricted areas, according to Canadian Aviation Regulations. The restricted airspace includes a radius of five nautical miles around the fire and to an altitude of 900 metres (3,000 feet) above ground level.
The presence of drones near an active wildfire can slow down, or completely shut down, aerial firefighting efforts due to safety concerns. If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft, the consequences could be deadly, the BCWFS warned.
Anyone caught operating a drone that interferes with fire control could be fined up to $100,000, or jailed for up to one year, or both. To report a wildfire, unattended campfire or open burning violation, call, toll-free, 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on a cellphone. For the latest information on current wildfire activity, burning restrictions, road closures and air-quality advisories, click here.