Fire

Municipal firefighters prepare to deal with hotspots and clear away underbrush along a B.C. Hydro transmission line into West Kelowna. The transmission line, threatened by the 450 ha. Brenda Lake fire, is the only electrical power source for 65,000 Westsiders.

Flames have come right up to some of the poles along a critical power line into West Kelowna, the city's fire chief says.

Municipal firefighters are patrolling a four-kilometre section of the BC Hydro line to deal with spot fires and clear away tinder-dry underbrush by digging right down into the dirt, Jason Brolund says.

"The fire is actively burning along both sides of the power line. It comes and goes in terms of its intensity, but it has burned underneath the line in places," Brolund said Wednesday.

"There have been a small number of power poles that have had fire either very close or up against them, but not enough to cause major damage," Brolund said.

Fourteen firefighters from West Kelowna, Kelowna, Peachland, and the North Westside are working alongside crews from the BC Wildfire Service on the out-of-control, 450 ha. Brenda Lake fire.

A number of evacuation alerts have been issued but a main concern is protecting the B.C. Hydro transmission line from Merritt, the only electrical power source for about 65,000 Westsiders.

The municipal firefighters, who are off-duty staff earning overtime paid by the provincial government, start their work each day at sunrise. "These are early, early starts, we're out there at the break of dawn literally," Brolund said.

"In the mornings, when temperatures are lower and the humidity is higher and the fire is not burning with a high level of intensity, we go along the line and put out spot fires or burning areas that are creeping toward the line and may threaten it as the heat of the day increases and the winds pick up," Brolund said.

Along with crews from B.C. Hydro, the municipal firefighters are also attempting to create as much barren area as possible under the power line.

"We're scraping away everything around the power poles, right down to the dirt," Brolund said.

Later each day, when winds typically increase and fire intensity picks up, the municipal firefighters withdraw to their safe zones outside the actively burning areas.

"Then, we may not be doing the pro-active work of grubbing under poles but rather only addressing spot fires that crop up that we can get to," he said.

The B.C. Wildfire Service has the majority of assets being deployed against the fire, including 40 provincial firefighters, two bucketing helicopters, and 13 pieces of heavy equipment.

Crews are also using a four-inch water line to douse the area along the power transmission corridor; a one-and-a-half inch water line is normally deployed on forest fires.

Still, the situation remains volatile, Brolund said.

"This fire is still full of potential," he said. "There are so many hotspots that, if the wind aligns with the heat of the day, there is great risk here."