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Firefighters to begin ‘planned ignitions’ to speed up Embleton Mountain wildfire fight

These controlled burns will be be used along the southern flank of the fire's control line
 | July 19, 2021
Fire fighters have been busy building control lines, better known as fire breaks, in areas surrounding the Embleton Mountain wildfire. Photo courtesy BCWS.

Firefighters working on the Embleton Mountain wildfire are preparing for a new phase of their fight, as they plan to use “planned ignitions” to help control the fire’s descent along the southern flank of the fire. 

These controlled burns will be used on the mountainside to the north of Heffley Lake (as visible along the highway driving up to Sun Peaks). 

In recent days the Embleton Mountain wildfire has begun to creep its way down this mountainside.

The speed of the fire, however, has been tempered by significant helicopter water bombing and  wind blowing towards the north and northeast, according to the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS). 

Hannah Swift, a fire information officer with the BCWS, said firefighters could begin with the planned ignitions as early as today depending on conditions, and  they could last several hours or even days. 

“We’ve seen quite minimal fire activity on the southern perimeter [of the fire]…So we’re going to use this technique to just assist the fire downslope,” said Swift. 

The goal, she explained, is to promote “low-intensity fire spread.” This, in turn, will rob the fire of fuel for when it eventually makes its way down the mountain and can be extinguished at pre-established control lines (fire breaks).

Air support will be utilized before, during and after the ignitions, according to the BCWS. 

Plastic Sphere Dispensers (PSD) will be used to carry out the aerial ignitions where terrain is too steep for crews to work. PSDs accurately deploy golf-ball sized plastic spheres onto the landscape. Through a chemical reaction, the spheres ignite shortly after they reach the forest floor. 

According to the BCWS, these planned ignitions will speed up the fire fighting process, as the planned ignitions will effectively bring the fire down to pre-determined  boundaries in a much timelier manner than waiting for the fire to back down the slope on its own. 

In the days since the fire was first discovered on Friday, July 9, firefighters have been working to establish control lines around the fire.  

BCWS crews recently established a fuel-free buffer zone southwest of the fire perimeter, that ties into a wider, machine-made fire guard along the southern zone. 

In recent days, prevailing winds have seen the largest growth of the fire to the north and northeast of the fire. 

The fire has successfully reached the Lower Louis Creek Rd, and has not breached that or any control area that’s been set up. 

Swift said  crews stationed along the road have been able to successfully put out the fire there. 

“[On Saturday], the fire was a little more active in that area, but crews did successfully hold that area of the fire [within] that control line,” said Swift.

Yesterday, a 20-person unit crew began work on a hand guard in steep terrain west of the fire perimeter to tie into the fuel free buffer zone to the southwest. 

Hand guards are used as control lines in areas where heavy equipment is unable to operate. These areas are approximately 1.5 feet in width and see firefighters dig to the mineral soil, removing any obstructing trees or root systems. 

The machine guard in the northeast, south of the McClure switchbacks, has been completed and crews are working to establish a water delivery system and hose lay along this control line. 

Danger tree assessors/fallers are working along this control line to remove danger trees  and ensure crew safety. 

Photo courtesy of BCWS

Structure protection personnel are continuing to monitor the structure protection units set-up north of Heffley-Louis Creek Rd.

Today has seen some of the worst smoke in Sun Peaks since the Embleton Mountain wildfire began. Swift said  a weather system has caused the smoke to keep low to the ground and it could be from other fires, not just the Embleton Mountain wildfire.

Tomorrow,  the forecast calls for mainly sunny weather with temperature highs of 23 C, relative humidity near 25 percent, and winds persistent from the south 5 to 15 km/hr.

Wednesday night there will be a risk of showers or thunderstorms.

Temperatures will reach 20 degrees and stronger southwest winds are to be expected. An upper ridge will begin building on Thursday. Temperatures will remain cool with light to moderate winds south to southwest.

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