Well the fire crews seem to be winning today. The wind direction has helped a lot. It changed dramatically from yesterday and has been driving the fire south and down a narrow valley away from the Bella Coola Valley since early this morning. In addition, the Province has sent us in about 20 more fire-fighters, an additional helicopter with the water bucket, and the ‘big gun’–the Air Crane, which is a huge helicopter that can drop about 500 gallons of water each drop. It has been amazing to watch the crews working but the Air Crane at work takes the cake in terms of magnitude. I managed to get right down to the river where he was working and watched him draw the water and head back to the fire several times–man’s inventions are truly remarkable. If we had several of these machines working together we’d be in good shape in no time.
In the shot below, the Air Crane is dropping water on the fire. Although a huge machine, it still looks minuscule in comparison to the task at hand! (He is just above the treeline at the centre of the photo.)
The draw that the fire is moving up is also our watershed. Many are worried that it will cross the Snootli river (which hails from this draw) and then threaten more houses on the south side of the valley. Thanks to this morning’s prominent winds, I no longer think this is a big concern at the moment. I won’t go as far as to say everything is fine today, but I am certainly much less worried than the past few days.
One of the things we have going for us is the steep terrain. The fire actually has to work to keep itself going. As you can see in the above photo, the face of the Nuxalk Mountain is mostly granite. Also, because of the many valleys (draws) that run north/south along our east/west valley, there are opportunities for it to move away from us as it seems to be doing today. Unlike say an Australian situation where the lay of the land is much less steep and thus can rage and move with extreme agility and frightening speed, here the fire should have much more difficulty taking hold in the bottom of the valley as it has a tendency to go up the side of a mountain instead of down. Of course, if it did we’d certainly be in a lot of trouble!
Another thing we have going for us is the amount of water around to draw from. In many other areas of the country we tend to rely upon fire retardant and gel, whereas here we can rely on water and draw from the many rivers that populate the province. As you can see from the photos, the river is a very short distance to the fire. The photo below shows the airport runway in the foreground and I am standing at the river edge while taking the photo.