BC Wildfire used bombers to fight the fast-growing fire west of Highway 7. Submitted/Agassiz Fire Department

Wildfire update: Fires burning in Fraser Canyon, Highway 7 and Skagit Valley

Several fires in the region are under ‘modified response’ meaning no firefighters are attending

Several fires are burning in areas surrounding the Eastern Fraser Valley, here is a roundup of the current conditions on Tuesday, Aug. 14.

Highway 7: Mt. Hicks

After over a week fighting a fire burning 10 kilometres north of Agassiz along Highway 7, which grew from one hectare when it was first discovered to 120 hectares today, it is now five per cent contained.

According to the BC Wildfire Service, 40 firefighters, five helicopters and one piece of heavy equipment are fighting the fire.

“Crews are working to secure power lines, contain the fire along the roadside and are continuing to establish a control line west along the south flank,” a BC Wildfire website states. “Crews are also assessing the north edge for access options. Crews will work on this fire where it is safe to do so.”

Traffic has been disrupted along the stretch which many in Hope and the Fraser Canyon use to get to Agassiz and beyond.

Drivers are now able to pass through the Chowat Road to Johnson Slough stretch during the day with single-lane alternating traffic. From 8 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., the highway should be fully open. Drivers should check DriveBC for updates before taking this route.

The fire led to BC Parks closing Sasquatch Provincial Park Aug. 11. Its cause, according to the RCMP’s Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment, was a vehicle with a flat tire.

– With files from Nina Grossman and Katya Slepian

Related coverage:

Highway 7 down to one-lane alternating as crews fight Mt. Hicks wildfire

UPDATE: Highway 7 brush fire now spanning 100 hectares

Skagit Valley Provincial Park

An estimated 2,043 hectares are burning in the Skagit Valley Provincial Park, 1.3 kilometres from the Silvertip Campground.

BC Wildfire has decided to conduct a ‘modified response’ to this fire, meaning the fire is being monitored and allowed to burn naturally. No firefighters are currently attending.

“It’s really unsafe ground to fight that fire and because it’s in a park it’s also good for the ecosystem to get rejuvenated through (fire),” said Dorthe Jakobsen, fire information assistant.

The location where the fire is burning is rocky, steep and “brutal for the crews, completely unsafe for our crews to get in there at this point.”

BC Wildfire is monitoring this fire and if it reaches certain ‘trigger points’, usually to do with fire behaviour, fire size or where it is spreading, they will reassess their strategy.

The Skagit Valley Provincial Park was closed Aug. 8 and the remaining campers, which were few according to BC Parks, were accommodated at the nearby Silver Lake campsite.

Related coverage:

Ultra-marathon through B.C.’s Cascade Mountains cancelled due to wildfires

UPDATE: Skagit Valley Provincial Park and Silver Skagit Road closed

Fraser Canyon

A fire burning 10 kilometres from the community of Spuzzum, in the mountains near Spuzzum Creek, is at 111 hectares. This is another fire where BC Wildfire has decided to conduct a ‘modified response’, meaning no fire crews are fighting the fire.

“If there were any structures or infrastructure or communities in danger, we would be talking to the community about that, we would be talking to the regional district about that. It won’t come as a surprise to people,” Jakobsen said. “We will be messaging out if there’s any threat from wildfire.”

The fire, discovered Aug. 4, is suspected to be caused by lightning.

A 112-hectare fire, also suspected to be caused by lightning, is burning north of the East Anderson River. It is also a modified response fire.

A second 817-hectare fire is burning in the Juliet Creek area, 70 kilometres north of Hope along the Coquihalla Highway. The fire has forced residents of the Murray Lake area to evacuate.

“Crews and heavy equipment will be continuing to establish control lines along the south and eastern perimeter of the fire with air support needed,” a BC Wildfire website stated. The fire is being fought by 45 firefighters and six pieces of heavy equipment, with air support as needed.

An Aug. 14 incident update stated the fire has developed with the help of wind into “three large independent fires separated by large areas of heavy, unburnt timber.”

“As a result, much of this fire is unsafe to put firefighters on,” the update states. Poor visibility is also a safety issue for crews.

An evacuation order is in place for the Murray Lake area. Anyone living in a property bordering Murray Lake must evacuate immediately, and report to the Emergency Social Services reception centre at 1720 Coldwater Avenue in Merritt.

This story was written on Tuesday, Aug. 14, from the information provided by the BC Wildfire Service.

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