In a teleconference on Thursday, Chief fire information officer for BC Wildfire Service, Kevin Skrepnek, responded to questions around how British Columbians are frustrated with the BC Wildfire Service about a controlled burn that got out of hand.
On August 2nd, the Elephant Hill wildfire was estimated at 84,442 hectares in size. By Thursday, August 3rd, the fire had grown to 97,100 hectares in size and is still reported to be actively burning with a 30% containment.
Skrepnek estimated the number of hectares for the controlled burn that got out of hand to be in the thousands.
It's been about three weeks since the province declared a State of Emergency and many evacuees are in a general state of anxiety, wondering when they can go home, collect their livestock and return to their health care provider.
So far, more than 40,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. Many of returned home, but others still await the good news.
As residents eagerly wait to hear they can go home, they're questioning the use of a controlled burn in such a volatile situation.
But according to Skrepnek, this particular fire had seasoned firefighters attacking it. He backed up the crew saying they have plenty of experience with controlled burns.
While he understands people's frustrations, he stands by the 'fighting fire with fire' motto saying it's the best way to attack some of the current fires.
As far as the fire getting out of hand, he mentioned wind, temperatures and the already aggressive behaviour is what led to the fire getting away from the team.
Below shows the location of the Elephant Hill fire and the area where it spread past Bonaparte River (red lines).
In a BC Wildfire Service report, this particular fire is described as having "unpredictable winds and extremely dry conditions (which) are creating some volatile fire behaviour and challenging firefighting efforts."
BC Wildfire Service's reasoning behind using controlled burns was to be proactive in areas where there are still pockets of dry fuels that have not burned and will likely ignite when the winds change.
Found out that last night our cabin and surrounding area were evacuated at 2am. This photo was taken from our side of the lake as the fire approaches on the other side. Praying for everyone who has a place up there that the fire steers away from Green Lake. Cannot imagine going back up to nothing. #elephanthillfire #greenlake #britishcolumbia #beautifulbritishcolumbia #notsobeautiful #canada #cariboostrong #cabin #summer2017 Photo credit: Francis Chiasson