The wildfire burning north of Princeton reached 60 per cent containment Tuesday, and it sparked optimism for both firefighters and residents.
“We’ve been making pretty good progress over a period of time,” said incident management team leader Bud Sabean, during an interview at the fire camp on Princeton-Summerland Road.
The fire, which started midday Friday, July 7, burned out of control for five days. It grew to 3,278 hectares before any containment was reported on Wednesday, July 12.
The Spotlight spent two hours with members of the team co-ordinating the firefighting efforts Tuesday morning, and visited a section of the fire line on Knudson Road with information officer and deputy incident team manager Brent Zbaraschuk.
The drive along Highway 5A through the evacuation zone was a solitary one, with only RCMP cruisers and trucks belonging to fire crews on the usually busy thoroughfare.
Areas of the mountainside are scorched black, and denude of all vegetation, which Zbaraschuk said indicates a “clean burn” and “a good burn.” Smoke still spirals from fallen trees and stumps, but those fires have nowhere to go as the fuel around them is consumed.
In other places patches of greenery and living trees indicate spots where flames could ignite under the right conditions of wind, weather and fire movement, said Zbaraschuk.
On the fire line, about two kilometres from the highway, contractors worked with shovels, axes and hoses “mopping up” this area of the fire, which is considered contained.
A trail has been hand cut down the mountain, and acts as a guard against fire creeping underground and spreading to new areas, as well as a path for hoses coming from pumps at the bottom of the incline.
Andy Telfer, one of the crew members certified in dangerous tree assessment, explained: “We make the guard secure so it [the fire] can’t go anywhere and then we soak the ground.”
Telfer said before firefighters are allowed into any area all trees must be assessed for their potential to cause harm.
“I look for burned trees or anything that could potentially fall and hurt someone and I just come and take it out,” he said.
According to Zbaraschuk dangerous trees are also still a real hazard along the highway, where they could fall across the road or against power lines.
Small crews, like the one on Knudson Road Tuesday, will be working up and down the fire’s perimeter for some time he added.
“That’s the hard work. It’s the guys on the ground doing the hard work.”
Despite the lack of flames he stressed “it’s still a dangerous situation…Rain would be very nice.”
The Spotlight saw no damage to homes in the fire area visited.
According to Sabean, since the incident management team transitioned to Princeton six days ago no homes have been lost in the fire zone.
He said the Princeton fire, like some others in B.C., presents challenges to suppression teams such as topography and unusual wind patterns.
He also noted the team’s reception in Princeton has been extraordinary, with residents volunteering to help and offering food and thanks.
“I mean, usually when we show up someplace people don’t throw things, but everyone here has been especially good and welcoming.
“We would really like to thank the local people for their co-operation.”