August 9, 2014 10:10 am

Drought Hill fire grows to 40 hectares fueled by strong winds

WATCH ABOVE: Cooler temperatures are helping in the battle against a wildfire near Peachland but the forest fire threat could heat up again next week as temperatures rise. Darlene Heidemann reports.

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UPDATE August 9, 2014 – The evacuation order for the one property in the 4700 block of MacKinnon Road has been changed to an evacuation alert this morning. Authorities say the fire remains at 40 hectares and is not contained, but that it was calm overnight. They also expect highway 97C to return to normal later today, with the removal of the single lane closures.

UPDATE August 8, 2014 – The fire has now grown to 40 hectares, fueled by warm temperatures and winds today. Strong winds are anticipated Friday afternoon, with gusts up to 50 km/h. Fire officials say the active area of the blaze is now away from property in the area. 85 firefighters and nine aircraft are battling the blaze.

The Emergency Operations Centre says boaters are interfering with aircraft attempting to reload with water in Okanagan Lake. Boaters are moving into the area in an attempt to take a closer look at the activity or get photos with their cellphones; and, emergency officials need boaters to stay well clear of the aircrafts’ reloading areas for their own safety, the safety of the pilots and to avoid interfering with the wildfire fight.

A smoke advisory is in effect for Kamloops and though another has ended in Prince George, new advisories have been issued for Burns Lake and Williams Lake.

A new Area Restriction Order is also in effect around wildfires near Canal Flats to protect the safety of firefighting personnel and the public. This Area Restriction Order is in addition to the earlier order put in place on July 30.

This new area restriction includes the following:

  • The entire East Fork of the White River Forest Service Road from approximately the 46-km mark to Munroe Lake.
  •  The Bull River Forest Service Road south to approximately the 95-km mark.
  •  The entire crown land portion of the Crossing Creek Trail east to Round Prairie.

The following forest service roads remain closed:

  • The main Whiteswan Forest Service Road from Highway 93/95 junction to the 32-km marker.
  • The main Kootenay Forest Service Road from the 3-km marker to 34.5-km (White Rock Forest Service Road and Kootenay Forest Service Road junction).
  • The entire White-Rock Forest Service Road.

Previous story:

VANCOUVER – Crews in Peachland continue to monitor a wildfire next to the Okanagan Connector.

The Drought Hill fire broke out just before 2:30 p.m. There are four air tankers battling the flames, along with two helicopters and six forestry firefighters with 20 more on the way.

West Kelowna and Peachland fire departments are assisting as well.

The fire is clearly visible from Highway 97C and has grown to 30 hectares. The road is still open but it is down to single lane traffic westbound.

Drivers are being asked to avoid the area if they can.

GALLERY: Crews battling the Peachland fire. Photos by Cynthia Jones.

There is one structure at risk and a local state of emergency has been declared to facilitate the evacuation of that home. Fire retardant has been laid down between the house and the fire.

With the hot dry weather continuing across most of the province, the fire danger rating is currently high in most areas, with large areas of extreme fire danger in the East Kootenay, West Kootenay, Revelstoke and Boundary regions.

In the past week, the Southeast Fire Centre has responded to 84 new lightning-caused fires. Thankfully the vast majority of these fires have been small, and many are already contained.

The Slocan Park fire, west of Nelson, is estimated to be 120 hectares in size. The Regional District of Central Kootenay has issued an Evacuation Alert for residents in the area between 2826 on Highway 6 and 3024 on Highway 6.

The Whitetail Brook fire, eight kilometres east of Canal Flats, is estimated at 1,700 hectares and is 50 per cent contained. There are currently 110 firefighters and six helicopters working on this fire. Area Restriction Orders are in effect for areas surrounding the blaze.

The Chelaslie River fire is estimated to be about 65,000 hectares in size and has sparked evacuation orders and alerts. People living in the communities of Smithers and Vanderhoof are seeing heavy smoke in their communities due to this large wildfire.

There are also campfire and open fire bans in place throughout most of B.C.

On Friday and Saturday more than 220 additional fire personnel will be arriving in B.C. to help fight the fires. Crews are coming from Ontario and Quebec and will join more than 1,600 provincial staff, more than 930 B.C. contractors and about 100 out-of-province personnel already engaged in fire response efforts.

These crews are in addition to about 80 specialized wildfire personnel from Australia who are scheduled to arrive in Vancouver from Saturday, Aug. 9 through Monday, Aug. 11.

The Wildfire Management Branch has responded to 1,036 wildfires so far this season, with most of them caused by lightning.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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