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Wilderness Adventures - July, Week 3/2010

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 some great contributed stories and ongoing blogs, just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

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31/07/2010 8:19 PM

Fires

So far we have been really lucky with forest fires.
Williams Lake has literally been surrounded by forest fires, several of which are at Meldrum Creek where my nephew helps on a ranch for the owner. He and another rancher located a spot fire there days ago and informed the Cariboo Fire Center several times of it. They were ignored so they went out with what little equipment they could use and attempted to put a fire guard around it but as the fire grew bigger and the guard seemed inadequate, they again informed the fire center. Finally a unit crew came out but the leader said it was too small to bother with and they had other priorities. A young guy on the crew insisted that using a pump they could action it and probably have it out in less than half an hour but the leader insisted it wasn't worth it, which is nuts because if you go that far out to the area, why not action it? My nephew and the other rancher asked if they would leave a pump and hose and they would put the fire out. The unit crew refused the request. As I understand it, the fire is now one of three huge ones threatening three ranches in the vicinity. It sounds pretty typical. It doesn't seem that the CFC has any of the resources in the region that you would normally expect in such an extremely dry year.
Because of the several different fires in the Margarite, Mcleese Lake, Alexandria, Meldrum and Soda Creek area north of Williams Lake, native reserves in the area have been evacuated. There is also a fire in 140 Mile south of Williams Lake and numerous fires in the Alexis Creek area to the west of Williams Lake so no matter which direction the wind blows, the residents of Willy's Puddle are enduring a pall of smoke and ash, made worse by the fact that the town is in a valley. Apparently air quality is horrendous.
There are several fires on both sides of Alexis Creek and people I've talked to that came through on Highway 20 said visibility was often less than 150 feet and the air choking. Several folks there are on evacuation alert although since there have been a few road closures due to smoke, evacuating may not be that simple. One fire south and east of Alexis Creek is 7,500 acres and growing. Another fire east of Alexis Creek is also about 7,500 acres.
The Dog Creek/Alkali Lake Fire southwest of Williams Lake has grown to over 15,000 acres and threatens native reserves and ranches in the area. Many of these fires are no where near being contained.
While we've sympathized with those communities in smoke, we've been seriously grateful that our skies have been clear blue for weeks now other than a day or two when the North Tweedsmuir Park fire sent smoke our way but although you could smell the smoke it wasn't too bad. Until today, anyway. I watched the smoke roll over us Friday evening and hoped it would move on. It didn't. It dropped to lake level overnight and held most of the day. The stench of old smoke was in the air and air quality was not good. We kept hoping winds expected in Bella Coola would make their way here and blow it away but no such luck. You couldn't see much in the way of thunderheads except overhead, but we heard boomers that were pretty close a couple of times, but the smoke was so bad you couldn't have seen a forest fire smoke if you tried. At least it looks like it's clearing out now.
We finally got a lookout in the Forestry watch tower on Kappan Monday afternoon. It was about bloody time. As soon as I learned the lookout was coming in I turned to Andy and said, "Betcha they're expecting thunderstorms tomorrow!" Sure enough, we heard some thunder but for the most part the storms rolled on over and nailed other areas, including poor Alexis Creek. I hold that it's just too dry for much to be picked up here just this side of the mountains unless we get a storm front moving in from the ocean that's already packing moisture.
I was contacted by one person previous to our lookout coming in that wanted to know what I did last year to get a lookout up on Kappan. He and other residents of his area were pretty angry that no lookouts were up yet. Although from what he said, there had been one up in the Alex Graham watch tower at Alexis Creek until two days before the Bull Canyon fire started when she was pulled. Who knows how much time would have been saved getting resources on that fire if she had been up there and able to report it immediately.
That's another thing. I guess that fire was not started by a campfire but by road maintenance crews doing clean up in the area with chain saws Although it was human started, it was not campfire started.
The talking heads on the news hour kept spouting numbers provided by Ministry of Forests about the high percentage of fires started by campfires. But that was before the lightning strikes that started hitting everywhere this past week. That percentage has changed drastically now as it always does. But you don't hear about that anymore. It's too bad the media only reports what is fed to them. Not that having a campfire anywhere would be anything but foolish now. A full fire ban went on Thursday throughout most of BC and I'm all in favor of it at this time. It's definitely warranted since so many regions, including ours, is in the extreme fire danger zone.
However, I didn't like how some forestry twit decided to post their sign on our brand new information kiosk. Without bothering to ask, they spiked a bloody big fire ban sign on the front of the building with roofing nails. Can you imagine them doing something like that to the two buildings across the street, either the store or the post office? Doing that would probably have caused the sign to disappear into a very dark place on the person that nailed it up. But just because our building was unattended, they think they can come along and spike that thing into the wall next to ferry schedules and brochures without permission. That's just the kind of help we need with out tourism. Arrogant twits. Needless to say, it has been moved to the side of the building under Community Bulletins where it belongs and posted in a much neater manner, sans the spikes.
You will find last week's article at July Week Two , and I will try to do a better job of updating the blog now that forest fire season has started in earnest. It's just that it's been a really busy summer so far and I just haven't been able to find time at the computer other than for absolutely necessary work. The rest of the time I'm outside in this gloriously hot (and tiring) weather we've had for a couple of months now. We've still gotten no more than 1 1/2 inches of rain since the snow melted in April so staying on top of the watering around here is a full time job.
Thanks for your patience, folks. Oh, and thanks to our neighbour Ted that kindly sent some pictures of the Bull Canyon Fire when he went to town a while back.





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!
White smoke along the side of the Highway.
 
Smoke in front of driver.
 
Blackened and burned trees beside the highway.
 
Plane over mountains with smoke haze.
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