Lightning triggers small fires throughout Whistler-Pemberton 

WB on alert after four blazes flared up on Blackcomb Saturday

Fire crews have battled flames throughout Whistler-Pemberton over the past five days after a series of lightning storms swept through the area.

As of Wednesday morning, the crews stifled almost all the fires that popped up in the area since Saturday's violent storm, according to Mike McCulley, fire information officer for the Coastal Fire Centre.

Crews are attacking a Rank 2 fire heavily near Cheakamus Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park, he said. The fire was trapped underground after a lightning strike but at press time it was about 1.5 to two hectares in size.

"We did use some air tankers on that fire last night," said McCulley on Wednesday morning. "It is on fairly steep ground and it is not burning near to resources. No public or infrastructure is threatened at this time."

McCulley said the Coastal Fire Centre is working closely with the park manager to assess the fire and determine a strategy.

The past five days have been busy for fire crews throughout the province. Extremely dry weather combined with electrical storms led to hundreds of fires popping up throughout B.C.

The thick cloud of smoke hanging over Whistler is from major fires burning in the Interior, said McCulley.

He added on Tuesday that more lightning struck Pemberton Meadows, even though almost no rain fell from the sky.

The electrical storm around 6:30 a.m. caused approximately six spot fires of about 0.1 hectares or smaller.

And smoke also billowed thick Saturday evening as fire crews worked hard to contain 19 forest fires ignited between Whistler and Pemberton following a later afternoon lightning storm.

Four of the blazes were on Blackcomb Mountain, the closest one burning just a kilometre from Whistler Village.

The Blackcomb fires broke out between 4:30 p.m. and 5:45 p.m, as torrential rain poured and the sky was streaked with lightning flashes. Chunks of hail also fell at one point.

Doug Forseth, senior vice-president of operations for Whistler Blackcomb, said the flames sprung up on trees near Tower 5 of Solar Coaster as well as on two trees near the top of Racer Alley off Easy Out.

Another two fires smoldered above Painted Cliff Road on the Benchlands, although neither broke out into flames.

Fire Services teamed up with Whistler Blackcomb to battle the blazes on Blackcomb, while other crews worked on the other fires throughout the corridor.

"We had attack crews ready to go," said McCulley. "Our goal is to always hit hard, hit fast and contain the fires as much as possible in the early stages."

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