The Elephant Hill wildfire continues to behave aggressively, forcing an evacuation order northeast of Clinton on July 25. Barbara Roden

VIDEO: Wind and warm, dry weather increase Elephant Hill wildfire

Crews may start conducting controlled burns as early as today to try to contain the fire.

A return to warm and dry conditions has resulted in increased fire behaviour in many parts of the Elephant Hill wildfire, which is burning north of Ashcroft and Cache Creek and east of Clinton.

“Last night we did have some unexpected easterly winds and that caused the fire to be pushed over our containment line onthe western flank of the fire,” says Fire Information Officer Claire Allen. “It pushed the fire back onto the worksite so we pulled crews out of the area due to safety reasons and today we are reassessing how to control the excursion.”

The Elephant Hill wildfire currently covers about 61,500 hectares. About 300 firefighting personnel are assigned to the fire, backed up by 60 pieces of heavy equipment, 50 structural protection specialists, 60 support staff, and air support. Existing and additional resources are being reallocated as necessary to manage the increased fire activity.

On July 25, 2017, unexpected easterly winds pushed the fire over the western containment lines towards the Bonaparte River. This shift prompted the Thompson-Nicola Regional District to expand evacuation orders for several properties northeast of Clinton, in the interest of safeguarding life and property. Details about this evacuation order are available on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District website at http://ow.ly/S3tK30dVT9a.

“We do have ample resources allocated to the incident and especially in that area as it is moving towards the Bonaparte Riverbut it has not crossed at this time,” says Allen.

While winds yesterday were pushing the fire towards the area, Allen says today’s winds should be pushing the fire in the opposite direction.

There are no immediate threats to structures at this time.

Additionally, under current wildfire activity, Highway 97 is not being threatened by the fire.

“Given what we can see, we have not recommended any closures of the road at this time,” says Allen.

RELATED: Loon Lake waits to go home

The expansion of the Elephant Hill wildfire on July 25 was due to several days of warm conditions and gusty winds from the east, not from controlled burns. The BC Wildfire Service only conducts controlled burns to manage aggressive wildfires when conditions are safe, and yesterday’s winds were too variable and gusty to do so.

All available options to manage the wildfire’s growth yesterday will be assessed over the coming days, including airtanker operations and controlled burns if it is safe and feasible to do so.

Fire behaviour has been increasing in the Loon Lake and east/south/southeast areas with the continuing warm temperatures. Resources are being requested and reallocated to address escapes and maintain containment as necessary. An infrared heat scan was conducted in the Loon Lake area and Division A to determine where there continue to be hotspots. The scan is being assessed for hotspots in the mop-up area.

RELATED: Evacuations north east of Clinton

Crews are working to build handguards in the southeast corner where dozers cannot access, and preparing for controlled burns to anchor guard construction to further secure the protection of ranch lands and Cache Creek.

Specialists continue with assessing danger trees, and ground crews continue with mop-up and equipment demobilization in the most southerly end and on the west flank. Ground crews continue to construct guards northwest of Hihium Lake to restrict fire spread towards structures.

Structural protection crews are working 24 hours conducting assessments, establishing sprinkler systems on properties, and protecting values where needed.

While smoke was visible for quite a distance due to the increased behaviour, Allen says this was not because of a controlledburn.

In assessing all operational options, and if it is safe to do so, crews may conduct controlled burning in crucial parts of the fire today (July 26). The controlled burns would be conducted to contain recent growth on the western side, to the north of Loon Lake, above Back Valley Road, and along the southeast and east flanks of the Elephant Hill fire.

WATCH: Drone footage of the Loon Lake devastation

These planned burns would reinforce the fire guards that crews and heavy equipment have established over the last few weeks by removing flammable materials from those areas. The goals are to halt the growth of the wildfire and further protect properties and other nearby values.

If the controlled burns go ahead, smoke columns, open flames, and increased amounts of smoke may be visible from the communities of Cache Creek, Clinton, and surrounding areas. The controlled burns will be supported constantly by aircraft, equipment, and firefighting personnel.

WATCH: Ground view of Loon Lake

A second fire camp has been set up in Clinton. The current camp will remain in Cache Creek.

To report a new wildfire or an open burning violation, please call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone.

For up-to-date information on current wildfire activity, burning restrictions, road closures, and air quality advisories, call 1 888 3-FOREST (1-888-336-7378) or visit http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/wildfire-status.

You can follow the latest wildfire news on:

Twitter at http://twitter.com/BCGovFireInfo

Facebook at http://facebook.com/BCForestFireInfo

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