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Cariboo region wildfire partially contained

Handout photo of a wildfire in the Big Bar Creek area of the British Columbia interior provided on Aug. 22, 2012.

handout/BC Forestry Service

Twenty-four hours of back breaking effort has partially tamed a wildfire burning in B.C.'s Cariboo region at Big Bar Creek, 40 kilometres west of Clinton.

Julie Jansen, who works at a nearby ranch, said her home on Big Bar Ferry Road would have been threatened if firefighters had not set up some structural protection two kilometres away. She could still see a lot of smoldering and some spot fires on Thursday morning.

"The majority of it had gone out as far as in the main valley where it started, but it has gone up the hill and it was still burning pretty good in some spots," she said.

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Fire information officer Jenny Fremlin said the 420-hectare fire, which has blackened just over four square kilometres of woodland, is now 20-per-cent contained.

"The objective for the day will be further containment by building more fuel-free areas, setting up water-delivery systems and cooling the fire with water bucketing and hoses," she said.

Wildfire management officials said 117 firefighters and a specialized incident management team remained assigned to the blaze on Thursday.

An evacuation order was downgraded to an alert the day before, but most of the 40 people in about 15 homes had defied the earlier command to get out, expressing confidence in their escape plans.

Ms. Jansen said people in Clinton do not underestimate the fire danger, particularly when the region has a lot of dead trees and dry grass and has experienced little rain. Their homes were similarly threatened in 2009 by a wildfire at Kelly Lake, west of Clinton.

However, few would leave their farms and homes behind unless absolutely necessary, Ms. Jansen said.

"You see people in these sort of situations and you think, 'You idiot, get out of there,'" she said. "But you don't know until it's happening to your place. On my property, there's six horses, there's chickens, other people have pigs and turkeys.... Those of us that make our living with the animals, that depend on the animals, that is our life and that is what's important."

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Ms. Jansen, who works at the Echo Valley Ranch and Spa, said she spent the night in her truck away from the wildfire on Tuesday when the evacuation order was issued. But she constantly went back to her house to check on the fire's progress during the day, and she returned home on Wednesday.

Staff at the ranch resort spotted the wildfire earlier this week and called the fire centre. They had started to douse some of the fire with the community's water pump prior to the arrival of the firefighters.

Ranch owner Norm Dove said guests were still coming to the resort, about 15 kilometres from the fire, on Wednesday night, and he suggested the evacuation order was premature.

"The guests are still coming and going, they don't feel threatened, and we definitely don't," he said.

"We wouldn't like to see the forest burn ... and a fire's a fire, there's always a danger when you have a fire. But right now, there's dozens of them burning in the province. Every summer this is an occurrence, and they deal with it."

The cause of the fire is being investigated.

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About 60 new fires were reported to the Kamloops Fire Centre since last Thursday, and 40 of them were sparked on Tuesday and Wednesday alone, fire information officer Kevin Shrepnek said.

One wildfire was just 100 metres away from a home, about 20 kilometres east of Kamloops, but firefighters were able to contain it within the day Tuesday.

"We responded with air tankers and crews and helicopters, and we were able to get on top of it before it threatened anything," Mr. Shrepnek said.

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