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Wasa residents ‘ready to flee’ with St. Mary’s River wildfire in sight

Residents of a small southeastern British Columbia community in the East Kootenays are prepared if an evacuation order is put in place.

“I’m all packed up and ready to go,” said Murray Dyer, who owns the Wasa Lake flea market, off Highway 93 and 95.

“Right now it’s on the other side of the river. As long as it stays on that side of the river, we’re okay. If it jumps, well, I guess we will be going next.”

Dyer has operated his flea market out of his current location for 14 years.

He says he’s seen wildfires before in the area, but none as close as the St. Mary’s River wildfire.

“I hope they’ve got it under control. It looks pretty small now,” he said.

Wasa Lake flea market owner Murray Dyer shows his evacuation notice

“But it could flare up. A big gust of wind comes up and flares that up again. That’s what everybody’s scared about.”

Wasa Lake Diner owner Warren Atkins says his business is under an alert, but adds he’s ready to go.

“We’ve watched the fire grow, from when you go to Cranbrook and back a lot, you’ve seen it, how far it’s moved,” he said.

“And we’ve had smoky days, not so smoky days like today, it’s nice and clear. But by tonight that could change.”

Atkins has run the diner with his wife for 15 years.

Atkins has run the diner with his wife for 15 years

“Play it by ear and see what happens,” he said.

“Hopefully, we don’t get to an order and hopefully we don’t lose power. That’s the big thing. If we lose power, that’s when you have to start scrambling.”

B.C. Wildfire Service said Sunday the fire has not grown in size and remains at 4,093 hectares.

The regional district of the East Kootenays said Saturday’s notification to residents brings the total number of dwellings on evacuation Aaert as a result of the St. Mary’s River Wildfire to 661, while 67 homes remain on evacuation order.

Anyone under an evacuation alert should be ready to leave with important documents, pets, medications, and fuel and food.

The regional district says a response officer flew the fire Sunday morning and says all control lines are currently holding.

The service added that small-scale hand ignitions were prioritized before peak burning during the afternoon where crews on the ground burned pockets of green from within the fire perimeter that could potentially cause a risk of spot fires in the coming days.

B.C. Wildfire Service suspects this fire was caused by downed power lines.

There are four initial attack crews and four unit crews responding to this wildfire.

There are 232 personnel including B.C. Wildfire staff, contract crews, single resources, and structure protection personnel.

An American 20 person engine crew arrived and began Friday July 21st.

There are currently eight helicopters assigned to the wildfire, 16 pieces of heavy equipment on site working on containment lines while 57 structure protection personnel are on site and integrated into the incident.

In addition, the City of Cranbrook has implemented an evacuation alert for the Canadian Rockies International Airport.

Officials say residents with holiday trailers or boats in areas under an alert should move them.

Residents with livestock or large animals can contact the emergency information line by calling 250-426-2188 for more information or assistance.

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