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UPDATE: New wildfire in Chilcotin spreads to 1,120 hectares in 24 hours

Airtankers, helicopters, crews responding to the Siwash fire

Fire C53002 in the Siwash area in the Chilcotin has grown to 1,120 hectares in a day, and is now burning on both sides of the Chilko river.

Talia McKay, information officer for the Cariboo Fire Centre, confirmed airtankers and helicopters actioned the fire Monday evening with fire retardant, however, due to fire behaviour and winds the fire jumped the river.

“Dozers worked until late last night (Aug. 28) to establish guards tying into roads and retardant lines, with the south side of the fire contained with a control line,” McKay told Black Press in an emailed response Tuesday. “Today, BC Wildfire as well as additional resources are on site. Aerial support has actioned this fire as visibility allows. Personnel, with support from heavy equipment are providing direct attack suppression efforts on the east flank.”

The human-caused fire was discovered Monday (Aug. 28) at 3:26 p.m. in an area known locally as Siwash or Gwetislh, just south of Chilko River and west of Alexis Creek.

Fire behaviour has decreased Tuesday due to lowered temperatures and increased relative humidity, McKay said, adding the updated size of the fire is due to visibility increasing and allowing personnel to obtain a more accurate fire perimeter.

“In the coming days, a downtrend in weather is expected with lower temperatures and higher relative humidity which will aid in suppression efforts. Personnel will continue guard construction with aerial support as visibility allows.”

There are no known injuries at this time due to the fire. A truck, camper and tent were reportedly burned in the blaze.

Tsilhqot’in chief and tribal chair Joe Alphonse urged residents Tuesday to be extremely cautious.

“We have to be really vigilant,” said Alphonse. “This isn’t 20 years ago. This (dry weather) is our new reality and we have to always be cautious. As First Nation people we want to have the lowest impact as possible on the environment.”

Airtankers could seen flying out of Williams Lake toward the Chilcotin Monday as the BC Wildfire Service responded swiftly to the new wildfire.

Plumes of smoke could be seen from along Highway 20 Monday evening. Images captured after dark showed a bright glow of flames.

The area is an important location for gathering, with the 33rd Annual Tŝilhqot’in Nation Gathering just hosted in Gwetislh (Siwash) from August 22 -24.

This story was last updated at 6:13 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29

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Angie Mindus

About the Author: Angie Mindus

A desire to travel led me to a full-time photographer position at the Williams Lake Tribune in B.C.’s interior.
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