British Columbia

RCMP look for tips after announcing devastating Elephant Hill wildfire was human caused

Police are appealing to the public for information on the fire’s origins, which began July 7 and lasted 76 days in the Boston Flats, Loon Lake and Pressy Lake areas.

Investigators open tip line for information on blaze that burned for 76 days, destroying 120 homes

An evacuee stops to take pictures of smoke clouds from a parking lot near Clinton, B.C., in July 2017. RCMP have set up a dedicated tip line for information about last summer's devastating Elephant Hill wildfire. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

RCMP say they have determined the Elephant Hill fire, which destroyed more than 120 homes in B.C.'s Interior, was human caused.

In a statement issued Monday, police said they are asking for the public to provide any information it might have about how and where the fire started on July 7.

The blaze burned for 76 days in the Ashcroft, Boston Flats, Loon Lake and Pressy Lake areas, about 350 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.

The RCMP has set up a dedicated tip line at 1-855-685-8788.

Destruction caused by wildfire, as seen in Boston Flats. (Submitted)

"Considering this fire directly affected tens of thousands of individuals and, even to this day, continues to have a very heavy impact on many individuals, we're hoping someone might have some information that would move the investigation forward," said Cpl. Dan Moskaluk.

"In many instances, it's tips from the public that are the linchpin to investigations that then create quite a flow of advancement on our findings.

"We don't want people to discount anything they feel could be inconsequential. Even if they feel they have information they doubt we need, don't hesitate to call us."

The Elephant Hill wildfire destroyed parts of Pressy Lake's surrounding landscape. (Submitted)

The Elephant Hill fire, which eventually grew to more than 192,000 hectares in size, was one of the most devastating in a record-breaking wildfire season for B.C.

Originally dubbed the Ashcroft Reserve fire, it ripped through Boston Flats and destroyed 45 houses in early July.

It went on to claim another 45 homes in Loon Lake, as well as 33 in the Pressy Lake area.

On July 29, the fire exploded in size, crossing a river and forcing evacuation orders for an area seven times the size of Vancouver, including the town of Clinton.

The Elephant Hill fire, which was human-caused, whipped through the cemetery at the Ashcroft Indian Reserve in July. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Moskaluk said investigators are looking for anyone who may have seen something suspicious in the area around July 6, or anyone who has first-hand information about how the fire was sparked.

He added that the investigation is a "high priority."

"Fires are a disaster event that happen on a large scale with many moving parts, so from an investigator's view, it's challenging. But we tackle this investigation as we do any investigation," Moskaluk said.

Heavy smoke from the Elephant Hill wildfire was visible from a lookout near Clinton, B.C., about 40 kilometres northwest of Cache Creek, on July 29. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

"There's been a lot of door-knocking, there have been a lot of interviews, there's been a lot of following-up on tips that are received and we just carry on to the point where we can say we've done everything we can, working toward holding somebody accountable."

Moskaluk said he couldn't provide details as to how the fire was sparked. In September, police said they had ruled out trains and rail work as possible causes.

RCMP and members of Land Task Force Pacific (LTF-P) at an observation and reporting point near Clinton, B.C., as part of the Elephant Hill wildfire crosses a ridge on Aug. 8, 2017. (Master Cpl. Malcolm Byers/Wainwright Garrison Imaging)