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Strong winds challenging for Bearhole Lake wildfire crews

60K gusts hampering efforts to get in front of the growing blaze

The Bearhole Lake fire east of Tumbler Ridge has grown since Sunday to 5,231 hectares in size.

Fire information officer Sarah Hall said the forecast is for more aggressive fire behaviour over the coming days.

“Today, sustained westerly and southwesterly winds of up to 35 kilometres-per-hour and gusts up to 60 km/h are expected to significantly influence fire behaviour,” she said.

“Fire behaviour can quickly pick up with extreme winds and can result in very high rates of spread.”

The B.C. Wildfire service said the growth of the blaze was primarily due to wind and was responsible for a 12-kilometre movement of the blaze to the northeast yesterday.

An evacuation order for the community of Kelly Lake remains in place and a stretch of Highway 52E between Boot Lake and Red Willow, is closed due to smoke.

Travel in and out of the area has also been restricted to wildfire crews only.

Fire incident commander Scott Rennick called it a challenging situation with the winds.

“Considering the fact we can’t get in front of these things. It’s very aggressive. With the way the wind is sitting, there’s not very much we can do to put people in front of it,” said Rennick Monday afternoon.

“It’s just far, far too dangerous.”

“Really, what the strategy right now is to try and channel, steer the fire as best we can using aviation assets, like helicopters and heavy equipment which is working from the back.”

49 firefighters, six structure protection specialists and three pieces of heavy machinery have all been deployed to the area.

Rennick said the heavy equipment on this and other blazes in the complex include bulldozers, excavators, and feller bunchers.

16 helicopters equipped with water buckets are also being shared between six of the largest fires in the region, including the much-larger Battleship Mountain fire near Hudson’s Hope.

The short-term weather outlook for the South Peace is forecasting more continued strong winds through at least tomorrow.

B.C. South Peace River:

Today..A mix of sun and cloud. Local smoke. Wind southwest 40 km/h gusting to 60. High 17. 

Tonight..Partly cloudy. Becoming clear this evening. Local smoke. Wind southwest 40 km/h gusting to 60. Low 7.

Tuesday..Sunny. Becoming a mix of sun and cloud in the afternoon.  Local smoke. Wind west 20 km/h gusting to 40. High 19. 

Operational update for the Bearhole Lake wildfire (G72178) September 5, 2022 from BC Wildfire Service on Vimeo.