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
Wilderness Adventures - Aug., Week 3/2010
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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Check out the Picture
of the Day.
Forest Fire Wrap-up
realize it's been a while since I wrote a blog, folks
and I apologize to those of you that are accustomed to
coming here for updated information on forest fire conditions
in the area. But as I mentioned in my last posting, I
would be away for a week, and frankly, I was so teed off
when I got back I decided I had better cool down before
doing a rant on the blog and about that dip up at the
Cariboo Fire Center.
I had appointments for most of the week of the 16th in
Williams Lake and was still there when evacuees
began pouring in from Anahim Lake. Midweek a large
wind event was expected to sweep through the Chilcotin
and the Cariboo so everyone was on pins and needles wondering
what that was going to do to all the forest fires raging
in the Cariboo Fire district. They expected the fires
at Alexis Creek to blow up and so closed Highway 20 there,
but they had already closed Highway 20 at Heckman pass
on Sunday because of the fire there that was supposed
to have been called 'out' after that rain we had. It crossed
the highway which forced the closure. Maybe the CFC was
concerned about people in Anahim Lake being trapped in
Anahim with no way out if the Tweedsmuir fire really took
off but none of it made any sense, including evacuating
Anahim Lake residents into Williams Lake with a fire still
20 kilometers away (16m)
I felt so sorry for the crowds of Anahim Lake folks
milling around up at the evacuation center at the school
in Williams Lake. Stuffed in like cattle, there
was no room left for people that were evacuated from Meldrum
again. If the CFC was concerned about Highway 20 being
blocked because of fires at Alexis Creek and Heckman,
why not plan to evacuate to Tatla Lake school??? It's
huge, only an hour away, and there were no fires endangering
Tatla Lake at any time. In fact, there were none
anywhere near Nimpo or Charlotte Lake either but all three
communities were under an evacuation alert. Why???
It made absolutely no sense. None of it. I think that
there have been so many screw ups this summer that all
of a sudden someone hit the panic button without thinking
things through or looking at the big picture.
In the first place, Williams Lake and outlying areas were
in a lot more danger from the Meldrum Complex of fires
and only 12 km away with the wind expected to blow the
fires right toward Williams Lake. So why wasn't that city
under evacuation? Why put Anahim Lake under evacuation
when the fire was so much farther away? No idea other
than one cop said that because of all the fires and the
Cariboo Fire Center being short on resources and a shortage
of cops, CFC figured it would be easier to just close
the highway, evacuate, and not worry about the area.
However, many people did not leave Anahim Lake when
the evacuation order went out. So that meant that
extra police had to be brought in to protect homes that
were empty. That was a nice way to spend taxpayer money.
Putting up all the extra cops in local accommodation,
feeding them, and a few even got to leave in a very, very
fancy RCMP jet on floats. Nice. What was the point of
the whole exercise?
Finally, these poor people from our area got to come home
on Thursday and they must have been just shaking their
heads. I got caught in town on the wrong side of the road
block, but came out on Thursday only one day later than
I wanted to but I beat the pack with a permit. Even without
that though there's a myriad of ways to get back home
had I wanted to get here sooner, but since Nimpo Lake
was in zero danger, and my husband was already here, there
was no point.
Many operators up and down Highway 20 and in Bella
Coola are infuriated at the evacuations, alerts, and road
closures. It made lots of sense to close the highway
at Heckman when the fire crossed the highway but it apparently
was closed much longer than it needed to be. However,
one guy on road crew said that Heckman was kept closed
because the CRD and Cariboo Fire Center believed that
people would bitch less about the Alexis Creek closure
if the Bella Coola Hill was also closed. But it sure hurt
a lot of tourism operators, especially in view of
the fact that once you got out here, our air quality was
very good with the exception of just a couple of days.
I choked on smoke the whole five days I was in Williams
Lake. Compared to the rest of the province, Nimpo was
a great place to be because all the smoke blew away from
us. In fact, for a few days, smoke from BC fires was even
affecting Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and parts of
Ontario with many cities issuing air quality alerts.
Finally, Mother Nature stepped in as she is wont
to do on occasion and took care of a lot of the problem.
Really cool temperatures and some rain came with that
weather front that never did bring the expected 'wind
event' putting a real damper on all the forest fires.
It gave firefighters and air support an opportunity to
get ahead of the fires and many are in mop up stage now.
It's just an absolute shame that the fires were permitted
to get out of hand the way that they did. And I will reiterate
something here. I have nothing but the fullest admiration
for the firefighters on the ground and in the air and
those people supporting them because I know they all worked
their hearts out on those fires. I have to point
that out because only one couple seems to disagree with
my opinion regarding the fires and think that I blame
firefighters for that. I absolutely do not, but since
their business relies on working for the Cariboo Fire
Center, I understand wholeheartedly why they would want
to protect their job by championing the manager of the
Fire Center. However, you would be hard put to find anyone
else that thinks that yon estimable manager of the CFC
did a good job of managing the resources and fires this
year. Too many people in the know and first hand are stating
that this was one big cluster muck in the Cariboo Fire
Region this year. Thank heavens those fighting the fires
are hard working and competent or the whole Cariboo would
have burned up. A pretty good job was done to that end
as it was. Check out the figures!
Meldrum Complex: 47,293 hectares or 116,863 acres.
Almost a hundred and seventeen thousand acres! Can you
Alexis Creek area fires: 32,770 hectares or 81,000
acres although it may be more as these are outdated
Pelican Complex: 45,512 hectares or over 112,000
Heckman Pass Fire: 3,086 hectares or 7,625 acres.
Corkscrew Basin Fire: 6,034 hectares or 14,910
Compare these numbers to those below from August 5th.
Since most of the fires have not grown in a week and are
in mop up stage, most of these differences in fire size
occurred in just two short weeks.
Pelican Lake complex north of Nazko, 37,065 acres.
Four largest fires at Alexis Creek combined, 57,000
acres. Meldrum Creek fires combined size, 45,000
acres. Dog Creek Fire over 15,400 acres.
The problem is that no matter how desperately hard firefighters
work to contain fires, once they get to a certain size,
when weather and temperature is against them, there's
no slowing them down. That needed to be
done right when the fires were first spotted and adequate
resources put on them right away. As I reported before,
that was not done on some of the fires. Man, on television
when you saw a news item on a spot fire anywhere else
in the province, that regional fire center threw everything
but the kitchen sink at it fast and hard so they didn't
end up with the problems our region had. The only
other exceptional fire activity that I knew of was the
Binta Lake fire in the Prince George District and those
poor sods had everything against them including really
high winds at a critical point in that fire.
So how did so many fires end up getting as large as they
were in the Cariboo Fire region when they were interface
fires? (Structures such as residences, farms, ranches,
etc.) And even though the structures may have been saved,
there is serious concern among many ranchers for their
pasture land. They no longer have the pasture or hay to
feed the numbers of cattle that they have. Although it
is estimated that hundreds of cattle have been lost in
the Meldrum Creek fires but no one will know until after
fall roundup. There still is no feed for those cattle
left. Others have stated their concern to me of all the
good forest burned up in those fires. Huge fir stands
wiped out at a time when we have precious few green standing
trees left after the mountain pine beetle went through.
I guess that the only way we'll know why the Cariboo
Region ended up with such huge out of control interface
fires is if the whole thing is investigated, and I'm thinking
with enough prompting from a furious public, that will
happen. Why didn't we have the resources we needed
right at the start when we were going into an extremely
dry spring and summer. Why were BC firefighters sent to
other provinces under those kinds of conditions? Why have
numerous eye witnesses, including people that work in
Fire Protection, tell me that their calls about spot fires
were ignored and that repeated calls about those fires
growing rapidly were also ignored. And in fact that one
person was told to stop reporting the worsening status
of smokes from fires over the radio. Putting a muzzle
on people that work for you so that the public can't find
out what's going on is outrageous. And just reduces public
respect for the Cariboo Fire Center. Why did so
many people refuse to leave Anahim Lake when it went under
evacuation orders? Lack of trust. Cry wolf too
many times and people will no longer listen, and they
definitely won't listen when they know that they are deliberately
being kept in the dark. Don't expect them follow like
sheep after an entity they have no reason to trust.
Should there be a public inquiry into the goings on at
the Cariboo Fire Center for this summer fire season? I
absolutely believe there should be. I guess we'll see
Onto happier stuff!
Our weather has been cool during the day with a lot of
cloud mixed with sun, and freezing or close to it several
nights in a row. We've had several rain showers which
is a good thing since the campfire bans are now lifted.
There was a severe thunderstorm warning for the Chilcotin
this afternoon threatening hail, rain, high winds to 50mph
and intense lightning. Nothing but wind has arrived so
far though and that has settled right down now so we seem
to be in the clear.
I'm hoping we get a warm up and some sunshine soon. I've
got plants loaded with tomatoes and cucumbers in two greenhouses
right now, but I need the sunshine for them to turn color.
It would be nice for fishing too. It's a little cool on
the water in the evenings now but the fishing is picking
up and we need to get some trout into the freezer and
Andy took many of the pictures up on the right while I
was in Williams Lake, including the amazing sun
picture. He said that he looked outside and it
went from a bright afternoon to almost nightfall immediately.
The ash cloud from the Heckman fire had engulfed the sun
and turned it red and darkened the sky in moments. The
picture above it is one I took on the 14th. I was driving
toward Anahim Lake when this pillar of smoke started climbing
into the sky faster than anything I've ever seen before.
I pulled over on the highway because it just kept growing
higher and higher and I wanted pictures. I have no idea
which fire that was. There were four prominent smokes
on the horizon that day. I knew one had to be the Corkscrew
Basin fire and the other near Heckman Pass, but I have
no idea where the other two fires were. I just know they
all blew up at the same time in the heat that day just
The blog posting from the second week in August can be
found at August
Week Two . Have a great Labour Day
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!
the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!