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Wilderness Adventures - August, Week 2/2010

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.

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

13/08/2010 8:25 PM

Corkscrew Fire Smoke & Tweedsmuir

I haven't written in the last couple of days because I figured we were pretty much in the clear regarding forest fires and firefighters seem to be getting on top of the other fires in the Cariboo. However, just after four yesterday afternoon, a fire in the Corkscrew Basin decided to kick up a fuss. Located inside park boundaries of the Itcha Illgatchuz Provincial Park to the north east of us, we thought it was one that started a couple of weeks ago or so, but we haven't seen any smoke from that one in ages. It was a great dirty plume of smoke that the wind immediately pushed up behind Nimpo Lake, so of course people were calling to find out what was going on.
We took a run to Two Mile near Anahim Lake last night to have a look for ourselves, and discovered that the fire up in the Itcha Illgatchuz was on this side of the ridge and an entirely different fire than what was burning two weeks ago. In fact, it appears to be only slightly to the left of the major one there last year. Seven kilometers, maybe? So there can't be many directions left for that fire to burn because it was already burned over last year.
To the northwest, just west of Anahim Peak, another great plume was spewing smoke into the air. If it was the fire in Tweedsmuir Park that initially started near Highway 20 at the brake check, then it's moved quite a ways, because it definitely looks like it's in a different place than it was a couple of weeks ago. However, if the wind has been pushing it all this time, then I guess it's possible that it has traveled quite a way. It was throwing ugly black smoke into the air with several mushroom clouds peeking up through the lower lying smoke. (Top picture).
We've been really, really good for air quality here with the horizon clear as a bell, which is why I hadn't been paying much attention to what was going on with fires for the past few days. It wasn't until we saw that first smoke plume in a clear sky that we realized we had fires here that obviously started a while ago, because we certainly haven't had any storm clouds that would create lightning. It's not unexpected. We figured that there may have been lightning strikes in that storm a little while back but the rain, high humidity and cooler temperatures probably would have kept anything from really developing until it turned hot again. That appears to have triggered both new fires and encouraged old ones.
What floors me in the face of this obvious danger is that Kappan Lookout was leaving the watch tower for a few days and there doesn't seem to be a replacement. So it will be easy for a small fire to turn into a big one before an air patrol flies overhead and spots it.
Last night the smoke started rolling in from the Corkscrew fire and dropped like a stone in our cool overnight temperatures. I woke up at 4:30 this morning unable to get back to sleep because of the smoke and got up to close up all the windows and turn the furnace fan on because it has a filter. But by later this morning, it had cleared out completely and turned into a beautiful, clear day, albeit another hot one. Unfortunately, it's starting to do the same thing this evening so it will be another smoky night.
Strangely, there was a light dusting of ash and half burned debris up to a 3/8 of an inch in length on everything this morning. I haven't seen that since the Lonesome Lake Fire, and even then I'm not sure the material was that large. I guess we get to join the ranks around Alexis Creek and Williams Lake that have been dealing with that for weeks now.
I'm not sure about the status of fires around Williams Lake since I haven't seen any bulletins lately other than there was a new evacuation around Trout Creek and Euchiniko yesterday, but Alexis Creek fires seemed to want to join the party today with this heat and wind. We saw aircraft actioning our smokes this afternoon, but I don't expect a lot of resources to be expended out here on fires that aren't endangering anyone at this point in time. Firefighters and aircrew have enough on their hands elsewhere.
I ill be off-line until late next week, so I'm afraid it won't be possible to keep you updated on area fires for the next few days. Good luck finding information elsewhere folks. The online web page for the Cariboo Fire Center is so out of date it's laughable but I understand from one Nimpo resident that you can get some info from Facebook. Hope so.
Have a good weekend, folks!

09/08/2010 9:22 PM

Alexis Creek Forest Fire Pictures

Our neighbour, Ted Hlokoff, was kind enough to send me some amazing pictures of the devastation left behind at Alexis Creek by forest fires there, as well as of some of the areas still burning. I'll have them on the right and on Picture of the day. His copy follows:
Looked like a 150 new Forest Fires when I drove Hwy 20 home tonight. Smoky from Redstone all the way to Kamloops with the heaviest smoke in Redstone and Williams Lake on Friday. Very little smoke yesterday when I drove from Kamloops to Ashcroft, BC. Ashcroft to Bull Canyon had very light smoke until Bull Canyon where I took the pics.
Although I did see a few "hotspots" on the North side of Hwy 20 south of the River at Bull canyon and coming west nearly 10kms there was a lot of smoke. Glad the smoke was going south and not an issue for Hwy 20 or driving. No noticeable smoke at Anaham Reserve (Alexis Creek). Farther west of Bull Canyon alongside of the Highway was total devastation with only tree "splinters" and ashes for a couple kilometers on both sides of the highway. The many (looked to be about 150 separate smoke trails) fires that were very active were buring on the south side of the River. The 'detour' road near Bull Canyon was still closed when I drove past. I saw 3 Helicopters operating around the fire directly across the river from the campsite.

Thanks Ted!
Firefighters have definitely made headway on several of the fires burning in the Cariboo. The Meldrum Creek Complex evacuation order has been reduced to evacuation alert status and residents are being allowed to return home. The evacuation alert for the Dog Creek Complex has been rescinded.
" Weather conditions have allowed fire crews to achieve approximately 50% containment on all fires.
The immediate forecast is for slight precipitation and cooler temperatures for the next several days then returning to a high pressure/increased temperature condition that may restore unfavourable conditions to the existing Cariboo fires. The current cool spell is a short reprieve according to predictions."
According to the last bulletin I received tonight. Which is why I hope fervently that firefighters and pilots have been able to get ahead as much as possible on containing the existing fires because things are going to heat up again.
We had another cool evening with rain showers overnight. Temperatures didn't go any higher than 15C today and we had a cool breeze blowing alternately from the North and then West. We had mixed sun and cloud today with more cloud than sun for most of the day which helps to keep things cool.
There still seems to be no new fires out here so we got off lucky with that lightning storm. Highway 20 is open in both directions and it appears there's no reason for it to be closed in the foreseeable future.

08/08/2010 7:22 PM

Mixed Sunday

There isn't a lot happening around here regarding smoke or fires so I'll just do a quick general update on surrounding fires and evacuation alerts.
The weather has changed dramatically over the weekend. In the past couple of days we've accumulated another 3/8 of an inch of rain and it has been somewhat overcast and cool. The humidity has been high so the only worry has been with a brisk wind that started up today. Still, this kind of weather should assist firefighters in holding their own and possibly gaining on the massive forest fires in the Cariboo.
Our air has been wonderfully clear and clean for a couple of days now and there's no sign of smoke anywhere. I went out to Nimpo today and you could see a high directional haze with cloud at the base that may or may not have been smoke from one of the Tweedsmuir Fires, but it's really hard to say. It could just as easily have been frontal cloud coming in from the Pacific.
The weather is supposed to remain this way until Tuesday when another high builds in about Wednesday. Then it looks like we're back into summer with temperatures slowly increasing toward next weekend. As long as we can dodge the lightning storms, I'm okay with that. The tomatoes will like it too.
It's been a real joy to take a break the last few days from watering. I almost had to wonder what to do with myself. But then reality set in. You know, computer work, other projects. But I actually had time to clean out my garden shed yesterday and Andy threw some shelves up for me. It's amazing! I have places for all my pots now and can see them at a glance. Desperate this spring, I put the call out to everyone I knew for pots for transplanting, unable to figure out why I was so short of them. In the garden shed, deeply buried under a whole bunch of other stuff, I found neat stacks of last year's pots in a big, black garbage bag. I found lots of other good stuff too that I didn't know I was missing.
So some positive stuff has been happening on the various fires in the Cariboo. Visibility has improved considerably around Williams Lake allowing aircraft to get back on fires. Unfortunately, some of the fires have grown since I last posted numbers three days ago.
Meldrum Creek combined fires are now 65,500 acres, up 20,000 acres.
Dog Creek fire has grown 2,000 acres to over 17,500 now.
The Pelican Lake Fires have also grown with just two of them combined covering 35,500 acres. While one of the larger fires at Alexis Creek is now 100% contained, the others still burn on
Another fire was spotted yesterday but forestry was on it pretty quick and have stayed on it today.
The evacuation order has been downgraded to an evacuation alert for a small portion of Meldrum Creek. The rest of that area is still under evacuation.
The Dog Creek fires have been downgraded from evacuation to evacuation alert and portion of the evacuation order for the Pelican Lake complex of fires has been rescinded. An evacuation alert is still in effect for the Bull Canyon (Alexis Creek) Complex. I'm assuming that if residents are being allowed back into some areas, it's either been burned over or the fire has been turned back in those areas, presumably using back burns.
I was talking to a friend today that had to go into Williams Lake earlier this week. She said that going in through Alexis Creek area was downright eerie. There was no sign of anyone around either along the highway or on it. There wasn't a lot of visibility and smoke was low to the ground. She said it was like travelling through a moonscape. Along each side of the highway there was only blackened trees and stumps, and white ash and no sign of life. She did, however, say it looked much better coming home Friday, especially since the smoke had lifted considerably and the fire moved off.
At least one piece of good news came in the mail today from CRD EOC Communications and it's about what the Noah's Wish Foundation is doing for evacuees and their pets
T he Cariboo Regional District is pleased that between Noah's Wish and our community's generosity, evacuated animals will be cared for until it is safe for them to return home. The word went out that foster homes were needed, along with crates, dog food and horse watering buckets and once again people stepped up to help those in need. As the people leave the evacuated areas, or even plan ahead in an alert area, any animals that are brought out will be taken care of free of charge to the owners. The Stampede Association has opened their area to horses, while the BC Livestock yards have agreed to take cattle. Other large animals can be taken into foster homes, and small pets will be fostered as well. Noah's Wish has set up a temporary shelter in Quesnel at the rodeo grounds. Noah's Wish is a charity organization with volunteers trained in animal care and rescue as well as disaster training. When called to aid, they mobilize people across North America to come support the local organizer, Deb Knabke, in Quesnel.
Volunteers are not only cleaning and feeding the animals, they are also grooming, walking and interacting with them to keep the animals calm and healthy while their families are going through a time of distress.
Mari Donovan, Noah's Wish coordinator, is from California and explains their missions is "To provide rescue and shelter for animals affected by disasters." One family brought their mother cat and her litter of kittens into the Quesnel shelter and while she is there she will be spayed because her owner wanted it but couldn't afford it, and another citizen offered to cover the expense.
Any donations Noah's Wish receives (it is a registered Canadian charity) marked "Cariboo" will be spent in this area to help offset costs. If threatened residents cannot safely transport the animals out of the danger area, the Emergency Operation Center can help arrange for it. Please call the information line at: 250-392-4283. Anyone with donations or who would like to foster can call: Williams Lake - Colleen 250-398-5681 or
Quesnel - Pam - 250-747-1925.

This is pretty cool, so if any of you folks are inclined to help out with a donation or foster home, it would be much appreciated.
This is the start of a new week. You'll find last week's articles at August Week One
Oh, and if you're wondering about the pictures up on the right? Well, I decided to post some of the lake out in front to show how clear our air is. I know it seems like I'm rubbing it in to those poor souls that have been breathing forest fires smoke for ages now. But it's actually to show our visitors hesitant to keep coming this fall that we're in the clear here for the time being.
Oh, yeah, and you're wondering about that insane bottom picture? Well, when you're hot and sticky and everything's dirty and smoky, there's nothing like seeing cold, clean snow! This is snowmobiling one fine winter day up on Trumpeter Mountain overlooking Lonesome Lake and the Turner Lake chain.

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!
Forest fire pushes mushroom clouds into the sky.
Forest fire smoke fills the air.
Forest fire leaves only blackened trees and ash behind.
Smoke plumes behind ranch buildings.
Smoke plumes in the distance.
Bull Canyon forest fire.
Clear view of Smoke plumes across the river.
Clear view of the lake.
Clear blue skies.
Snowmobiles and mountains.
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