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Wilderness Adventures - August, Week 2/2009

This is about a remote area in west central British Columbia, Canada called the West Chilcotin. Surrounded by numerous glacial mountain ranges, alpine lakes teeming with wild Rainbow Trout, and full of wildlife. Living here goes from no running water or electricity to spacious log homes with all the conveniences and without the smog!
If you would like to see pictures of wildlife, mountains, lakes, exciting snowmobiling, events and more, and read stories like 'Lake Monsters' about the Lakesounds just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

Rolling over an image will give you its description.
Check out the Picture of the Day.


14/08/2009 4:03 PM

Standdown

The fire situation in the Anahim Lake and Nimpo Lake region has settled down considerably and most of the fires are in mop up stage, while several have been called out.
I understand from the store owner that a bus load of about 100 new firefighers are coming in to the area this coming week. It may be that Forestry wants to get a thorough handle on all the fires before it heats up again. Next week is supposed to bring more high temperatures.
It got down to about three degrees above freezing last night and has made it into the 20's C today with lots of sunshine but it's been a little humid the last couple of days. We received about a half an inch of rain a day ago so that's certainly helped things out a bit.
I don't expect to be writing any articles for the next week or two, so hope you all enjoy the best part of summer and I'll get back to writing around the first of September, if not sooner.
Below is the final bulletin for Bella Coola:

FIRES AFFECT TRAFFIC FOR 2 WEEKS IN BELLA COOLA
It's been 2 weeks since the Heckman Pass fire began affecting traffic along Highway 20 near Bella Coola on a stretch of road known as 'The Hill'. In spite of the area's fire activity, transportation crews have traffic flowing smoothly through the area during day time hours.
The highway is open to all traffic from 8am to 6pm daily subject to fire behaviour. The fires in the Bella Coola Valley itself remain stable again today and mop-up operations continue on the 2 larger fires in the populated lower valley. Small flare-ups are common and air activities respond to these on an as-needed basis.
The Central Coast Regional District Emergency Operations Centre remains open and information is available from 8am to 6pm daily. The number is (250) 982-0062

12/08/2009 8:09 PM

Forest Fire Situation Anahim Lake Area, August 12

Things have quieted down considerably in the past two days with regards to fires. Temperatures very nearly hit freezing down by the lake yesterday morning, and there was definitely frost up away from the lake. It clouded over last night so it didn't get as cold but it also hasn't warmed up much during the day either. I'm pretty sure we never made it much above 14C or 57F today with heavy black clouds threatening rain for most of the day. We could see it raining and hailing over the mountains throughout the day, and we've received a couple of spotty downpours of hail and rain, but nothing that lasts long. We could really use a long soaker, but even what moisture we've gotten helps the fire situation, as do the cooler temperatures.
Forestry has posted written updates on the board up at the store but I couldn't find an update on size of fires anywhere on the board this evening. I've got sizes of fires in the area from the eighth, but nothing for today so I'm not sure what has grown and what is out, and you sure don't want to go by the website. There are fires over 10 hectares that never have shown up on that site. The last fire to be shown on the Forestry website is from August 7, and we've acquired a couple of more fires since then. I see that a fire at Eliguk Lake is on the mill complex list at the store and I heard that fire called in a couple of days ago at least. But between the list at the store four days ago and the one posted yesterday, there looks to be three more fires that weren't on there before, including the one at Eliguk. At least it has to be a lot easier to spot smokes now than it was. Our air has cleared right out with no smoke anywhere.
Sadly, visitors to the area have really fallen off in the past four days. Unfortunately, the lights on the big sign at Williams Lake indicating a closure at Heckman Pass are flashing 24 hours a day right now without indication that the hill is open all day to get through to Bella Coola. I guess you can't blame people in RV's and such for turning around when they see that sign. Why would you travel for 250 miles without knowing whether you could get through? I told Richard up at the store to contact Highways and see if they can't put a notice board up with the flashing lights. He and the other stores and businesses are the ones really being affected by the lack of road traffic, and something needs to be done.
The following is the update from Bella Coola:

Traffic continues to improve along Highway 20 between Anahim Lake and Bella Coola as scheduled pilot car openings CHANGE TO FREE TRAFFIC DURING DAYTIME HOURS.
The highway is scheduled to open from 8am to 6pm daily with the initial group led by pilot car. All travel remains subject to fire hazard conditions. Travellers are advised to follow the instructions of traffic control personnel. The roadblocks located 80kms east of Bella Coola at the bottom of the famous 'Hill' for east-bound traffic and 30kms west of Anahim Lake at Green river for west-bound traffic will remain in place during the overnight period. Portable washroom facilities are provided at both points for the convenience of travellers waiting to proceed along the highway.
10/08/2009 11:47 AM

Weather Turn Around

We've seen a remarkable turnaround in the weather the last two days, something I think we all appreciate including those guys fighting fires on our behalf. Yesterday it didn't get any higher than 19C or 66F and today's max was 15C or 59F and it just dropped over five degrees just a few minutes ago because it started to rain a bit. So far we're not seeing enough rain to register, but at least what we are getting will bring up the humidity quite a bit. We did have some gusting winds today but that has settled down a bit which also has to be a help. Thankfully, while the wind might not help firefighters to contain fires, it certainly has cleaned up the air. No smell of smoke, we can see the horizon, including what looked to be a little fresh snow on one of the taller peaks, and even the helicopter pilots must appreciate being able to see where they are bucketing. While we do have storm clouds, I think it's too cool for a thunder storm so we shouldn't have to worry about lightning and fresh fire starts associated with it.
I don't know what there's been for fire starts in the last couple of days. The Forestry website listed two new fires up in the Itchas of 200 and 50 hectares, which is seizable, on their site August 8 but neither of those fires show up on their site now. Nor do they show up on the fire maps posted up at the store, so I'm going to be more inclined to believe what's been printed out by our friendly Saskatchewan IC and his management team at the Anahim Lake mill base.
Speaking of which, they have done a marvelous job of keeping our communities up to date by posting a large board up at the Nimpo Lake General store. Covered with plastic to keep it protected from weather, it has a large map with the fires on it, a list of fires that they're looking after giving coordinates and size of each, weather forecasts, lists of helicopters and teams on the fires, a break down of chain of command and personnel and just more information than we could possibly hope to have or need, for that matter. The fact that the team based out here right now is so forthright with information regarding the fires burning kind of makes you feel like a kid under a Christmas tree. Facts, and nothing but the facts. Instead of everyone having to rely on rumors, what they can see, and what little bit of information they can glean here and there to find out the status of the fires burning in our region, having the information at hand is a tremendous relief to a lot of community members and visitors to our area. It has to be a little freaky for the tourists to be here when it's really smoky, they're hearing about road closures, they know there are fires about, but have no information beyond that. I should think a lot of them would simply clear out, so this is so much better.
Thank you Saskatchewan IC and team!!!!
Bella Coola has a happy media update, or two actually, that I'll combine and pass on here.

BELLA COOLA WELCOMES BACK TOURIST TRAFFIC With a favourable change in the weather and another good day on the fire lines the fire threat in the Bella Coola area continues to improve. Emergency Officials have added another daily opening of Highway 20 at Heckman pass to assist travellers wishing to visit the area. All potential openings are subject to fire behaviour.
Scheduled one-time openings in the morning and evening are giving travellers and freight services more time to passage through the active fire area. Traffic control points are being moved to Green River west of Anahim Lake and to the foot of 'The Hill' east of Bella Coola to expedite transfer of vehicles. Travellers are reminded that all potential openings remain subject to fire behaviour.
The current weather is providing much needed relief to fire conditions in the Bella Coola Valley itself as mop-up continues in the area of two recent events.
ROAD ACCESS
Hwy 20 at Heckman Pass remains closed in both directions 80 km east of Bella Coola to 30 km west of Anahim Lake because of Forest Fire. Two daily potential piloted openings at 8:00 am and 6:00 pm are subject to fire assessment. Vehicles must be on site prior to any opening.
FIRE CONDITIONS
Weather conditions continue to look promising for the crews working the Bella Coola Valley fires. While there are numerous fires the three of main interest at this time are:
* The Nuxalk Mountain Fire sits at 367 hectares and is 20% contained. Fire crews continue to maintain east and west guards as helicopters bucket water to hot spots. Heli-spots are being established to allow ground crews to be landed in several areas. * The Saloompt Fire is estimated at 141 hectares and is 10% contained with several spot fires in the adjacent area. Crews continue to support the water tender along a dozer guard and will work to complete a retardant line along the NNW side.
* The Stuie Fire in Tweedsmuir Park was maintained during the day and the Structural Protection Crew was re-deployed to another area. A 20 person crew remains on site to work the fire
.

So there you have it. Even the Bella Coola Media Releases have a positive tone.
Hopefully we will start seeing an increase in our tourism traffic now as things start to settle down. There's still the odd spot that's creating a little havoc here and there. One of our local guide outfitters could see the smoke and fires up in the Itcha Illgatchuz Range with his trailriding group this past week and it looks like he'll be canceling tours in that direction for a week or two now. His camp is listed on the fire map and it looks like a fire started around the end of July by lightning is encroaching a bit on one of his camps. I guess the next couple of days will give us all a better picture of the overall fire situation for the area. But for right now, being able to step outside, enjoy a little sunshine and clean air, and not see a single smoke in any direction is a real delight.

08/08/2009 8:08 PM

Forest Fire Situation/West Chilcotin August 8

Other than a couple of fires that started in the Itcha Illgatchuz Range yesterday, There isn't a lot to report today. One stands at 200 hectares or 500 acres, the other at 50 hectares or 124 acres but we couldn't see smoke for either from our place today. Trusting that the Incident Commander based at Anahim Lake would keep the community updated if anything came up, I left the radios off today. After a couple of weeks of listening to the constant traffic you just get tired of it. While we had a cloud build up today, it didn't bring any kind of lightning activity as best as I could tell so I didn't need to be writing down coordinates.
Today was marvelous compared to yesterday when it came to air quality. It was reasonably clear out with good visibility and only occasionally could you smell smoke. I could actually take the dogs for a brisk walk today without snuffling and wheezing and sneezing. It was really nice!
You could see clouds on the horizon here and there colored with orange brown from smoke, but other than that there was no sign of a smoke columns anywhere. It wasn't until this evening that the Heckman Pass fire sent smoke over us from out of the west and did it's magical 'turn the sun red' thing. The bands of smoke above us are moving fairly quickly so there may be some upper level winds that are scooting along and that may have helped keep our air clear today.
We got down to about 10C or 50F last night and didn't get up much over 20C or 68 to 70F today. It started getting hot fast this morning while I was out walking but the cloud build up did a lot to cool things down, and even more of a cool down is expected by forecasters over the next few days.
We had a breeze spring up here and there today and a few pretty good wind gusts. That type of thing doesn't bode well for keeping fires within fire guards but hopefully they weren't seeing gusts like that around any of the fires.
The Bella Coola media update follow
s:
EVACUATION ORDER RESCINDED - Residents of 61 homes in the Bella Coola Valley will be happy to know they're going home today. While forestry crews will continue to work on mop up in the area, the threat level has decreased enough to allow emergency officials to invite people back in. An evacuation alert will remain in place for the affected area and evacuation alerts in other areas remain in place.
Residents and travellers are advised to slow down and watch for emergency vehicles as fire crews move through the area.
ROAD ACCESS
Hwy 20 at Heckman Pass remains closed in both directions 60 km east of Bella Coola to 16 km west of Anahim Lake because of Forest Fire. A daily, potential one- time piloted opening at 8:00 am is subject to fire assessment. Vehicles must be on site prior to 8:00 am opening. Tourism traffic is discouraged. Forestry crews working along Hwy 20 from 7kms east of Bella Coola to 11 km east of Bella Coola for fire control. Use caution and watch for emergency vehicles.
FIRE CONDITIONS Favourable winds, cooler temperatures and high humidity allowed crews to make good progress on fires yesterday. The forecast for precipitation over the coming days will allow crews to make further progress on the fires. While there are numerous fires the three of main interest at this time are:
* The Nuxalk Mountain Fire sits at just under 400 hectares today and crews continue in their efforts to build fire guard and work on hot spots. Ground crews have maintained fire guards at both ends of the Hwy 20 section, 8 kilometres east of the Bella Coola townsite. 54 firefighters, 4 helicopters and 2 pieces of heavy equipment were deployed on the fire.
* The Saloompt Fire - A 150 hectare blaze on the east slope of Saloompt Mountain is now listed as 10% contained. This fire has the potential to impact a neighbourhood of 50 homes located across the Bailey Bridge on the north side of the Bella Coola River. 24 firefighters and 2 helicopters worked the fire yesterday.
* The Stuie Fire in Tweedsmuir Park came closer to a critical telecommunications microwave station however, special structure protection crews have cleared vegetation from around the structure which resulted in lowering the fuel load. They are well prepared to fight the fire if it approaches the highway area.

The Bella Coola EOC continues to remain open for information between the hours of 8 am - 8 pm daily until further notice. The contact number is: (250) 982-2691. For further highway information, travellers can also log onto: www.drivebc.ca.


Just to let you folks know, unless there is a change in the fire situation, I will probably take a break from writing the blog tomorrow.
This is the start of a new week so to read articles about the fires in the past week and see pictures of them, go to August Week One.






The purpose of this web site is to draw attention to a remote area of west central British Columbia. It is a beautiful area that relies heavily on tourism. The search engines don't know much about the West Chilcotin, Anahim Lake, Nimpo Lake or any of the other small communities in the region and I hope to change that! Even as large as this site will eventually be, there just isn't enough room or time in the day to fully describe this incredible country but I am going to try scraping away at the tip of the iceberg, so join me!


Follow the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!
Large maps covered with plastic to protect them on the outside of the building.
 
Two loons swim by on Nimpo Lake reflected on water
 
Smoke during sunset turns the clouds red.
 
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