Some better news to report this morning from the Burns Bog fire in Delta.
Delta’s Fire Chief says conditions have improved since yesterday, and crews are aiming to get the Burns Bog blaze 100% contained today.
Fire Chief Dan Copeland says 80 personnel are on the ground and the only air support today will be from helicopters.
Fixed wing aircraft are on standby.
The fire remains at 70 hectares in size and is currently 10% contained.
An evacuation order remains in effect for 25 businesses along Progress Way, between 76th and 80th Streets.
Highway 17 also remains closed this hour from Highway 99 to Nordel Way.
Will the winds be a problem today, like they were yesterday?
Global BC’s Mark Madryga says,
“Well, the winds yesterday peaked close to 60 km/h in areas near the airport, may be a little less around Burns Bog but it was blustery, that’s what spread the fire late yesterday morning. Today we’re going to have winds more like 20 km/h through the day, may even pick up a touch more later in the afternoon. And it will all be from the west, so smoke moving from west to east.”
An out of control fire that began in Delta’s Burns Bog has now expanded to threaten one of the city’s key industrial areas, and the Corporation of Delta estimates it could be a week before the flames are fully extinguished.
The fire was spotted just before noon Sunday, between 76th and 80th street south of River Road, and was initially reported at just 100 meters by 100 meters.
But high winds quickly whipped it up, and it expanded rapidly. A 9pm update from the Corporation of Delta now lists it as between 55-70 hectares large.
“We’re throwing everything we got at this fire,” Delta Mayor Lois Jackson told a reporters this evening.
A section of Tilbury Island has been evacuated, but Jackson says fortunately there have been no reports of serious damage.
“I haven’t heard of any buildings catching fire on the north side. We’ve got Delta Fire in there and they’re doing a special job for us.”
As of Midnight Monday, the evacuation order for the Tilbury area was scaled back to only cover Progress Way between 76th and 80th Streets.
Four teams with Delta Fire are now on fire watch in the area, protecting businesses and critical infrastructure.
One firefighter was hospitalized because of a pre-existing medical condition that was exacerbated by the fire conditions.
People are being asked to stay away from the area, and Jackson says there has already been one car rollover.
The section of Highway 17 from Highway 99 to Nordel Way/Highway 91 connector remains been closed to the general public until further notice. River Road was closed Sunday, but has since re-opened.
Residents getting ready
Even though the evacuation order has actually been reduced, some are not taking any chances.
Several people in the residential area of Tilbury have already left, nervous the fire could make its way over to the farms they live on.
Pam Janzen has a hay business.
She’s worried it could all go down in flames.
Janzen says others have already left.
“…just because if the fire changes at any point, we have to leave. Some people who have buildings they rent in the area have pulled out some of their prized possessions.”
Others say they’re ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
One man has even moved out his antique cars.
Air quality concerns
The fire is also producing significant smoke, and Metro Vancouver is monitoring air quality.
So far, no air quality advisories have been issued.
You can check air quality updates here.
Delta Police say Burns Bog fire evacuation order affects "many" businesses in Tilbury area. Large number open today. pic.twitter.com/MpSF1GGnmP— Miguel Ramos (@MRamosTV) July 3, 2016
Delta Fire chief Dan Copeland says Sunday’s weather was one of the key challenges.
The area was battered by gusts of up to 35 km/h throughout the afternoon.
About 100 firefighters are on scene from Delta, Metro Vancouver, Hope, Squamish, and the BC Wildfire Service.
Copeland says they’re being backed by provincial air support.
“We have about five air tankers that are operating from the air and about four medium sized helicopters.”
Those aircraft have now turned in for the evening, with the fading light.
With aircraft now grounded, the Fraser River has been reopened to boat traffic.
There’s been no word yet about what may have sparked the flames.
One of the casualties of the fire: the radio transmitter for CKNW’s sister station AM 730 Traffic.
“I’ve been in the business for 30 some odd years, and through my entire life experience I have never come that close.”
Corus Radio chief engineer Rob Brown says Delta Fire called him down to the site to manually kill the power in the building.
“So basically about 15 seconds into that room, the air intake started to get the smoke and within seconds had filled the entire room.”
Brown says it was so thick he had to shut the system down by feel before running outside.
“First what drew my attention was the sound, the sound of like a fire – the crispy crackling sound that you would get. And then turning and seeing it almost right on top of me.”
Brown says he’s been told the transmitter may have been irreparably damaged.
For traffic updates you can still tune in to AM 730 online or through the app.
If you have an HD radio, you can also listen on 101.1 HD3.
BC Hydro crews are also on scene, with word they may need to shut down power lines running through the area. Crews from Fortis gas are also attending.
Could be active for days
Donna MacPhereson with the BC Wilfire Service says part of the challenge is getting gear into the remote area.
“They can move their hoses quite a distance. We have capability of even putting water bladders in between to be able to move water considerable distances in the forest.”
But she warns bog fires can be stubborn. The flames can be drawn down into the peat and both smolder or travel underground.
“These types of fires have a tendency to take quite a long time to put out. We’re anticipating that our crews will likely be there for several days.”
Mayor Jackson says it’s worrisome to see flames in the bog, considered by many to be the city’s crown jewel.
She echoes MacPherson’s concern about the bog’s peat catching fire, channeling the heat and flames underground where it is hard to see and fight.
“It always does, yes, and that’s of course what you have to be very aware of, that it can pop up anywhere, so it’s a matter of diligence. What I would ask is that people don’t go down to the site. We’ve got enough problems without having to deal with a lot of spectators.”
Burns Bog is about 3,000 hectares large and a sensitive ecological area, acting as a key sanctuary for wetlands creatures and migratory birds.
That has some conservationists worried.
Eliza Olson of the Burns Bog Conservation Society says the area is rich with life.
“The plants, the wildlife there could be deer, there could be birds, I don’t know if we still have bear or not, some of the insects. And of course the thing is its also going to be burning some of the trees.”
She adds the big concern is for breeding birds whose young may not be able to fly away.
“It’s going to depend on whether or not the birds are still nesting. That’s going to be one of the big challenges. I don’t know if they’ve all fledged or not.”
Olson says the silver lining is that fire is a part of the lifecycle for some plants, and could eventually lead to new growth.
But she adds the destruction of a soccer field sized slice of the bog releases the equivalent carbon of three car trips around the globe.
In 2004, more than two thousand hectares of the bog were preserved as an ecological conservancy.
History of fires
It’s not the first time a fire has caused trouble in the bog. Several fires broke out in the 1990s, as well as in 2005 and 2007.
In September of 2005, the bog saw a fire that grew to 200 hectares in size and took more than a week to put out.
MacPhereson with the BC Wildfire service says that fire posed major challenges to put out.
“We did work on a fire in the burns bog a few years ago and our crews had to meticulously go through it piece by piece, actually feeling underneath the water surface for pockets where the material was still on fire. “
Crews believed that fire was human caused.