Tuesday’s rain provided some relief to a crew of 75 firefighters, five helicopters and support crews battling a 600-hectare blaze at approximately 37.5 mile mark of the Elaho Forest Service Road, 50 km west of Pemberton.
The fire was caused by a lightning strike on Aug. 10, and quickly grew to its current size. Pemberton residents have noticed a haze in the air and the smell of smoke, but have been otherwise unaffected.
While the 11 mm of rain received on Aug. 16 helped the firefighters, warm and dry weather is expected into next week.
"We still have the same kind of resources on it… but it’s going really well," said Sue Handel, fire information officer for the Coastal Fire Centre. "It’s a large fire, still around 600 hectares, and it’s not something you can put out in a day or with some rain, but it hasn’t grown since the initial report, which is positive."
The fire hazard rating for Whistler has dropped from High to Low as a result of the rain, and to Moderate and Low for the rest of the Coastal Fire Centre. The bans on backyard burning and campfires will remain in effect, however, at least until next week.
"Generally speaking the fire hazard for Whistler has dropped, which isn’t to say it’s going to stay that way for long. A day of rain can drop the hazard quite quickly, but a day of heat can bring it up just as fast. We need more than a day of rain to think about lifting (the bans)," said Handel.
"Chances are it will be hot and dry through the weekend, but we will look at it again on Monday. We try not to implement and lift bans frequently during fire season because it gets confusing, so bans will be in effect until we’re sure the hazard ratings are going to stay down for a while."
As of Wednesday there have been 113 fires in the Coastal Fire Centre, which is substantially less than the almost 300 fires reported at the same time last year. Last week’s lightning is only responsible for four of those fires, including the Elaho blaze, while the other 109 are human caused. The Coastal Fire Centre is urging people to use caution, even if the hazard rating has temporarily dropped.
Other major fires currently burning in the region include a 0.2 hectare fire near Cascade Bay on Harrison Lake, and a 0.1 hectare fire located on Eagle Ridge Mountain west of Buntzen Lake.