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Merritt wildfire caused by tree blown onto power lines: residents

Crews work to contain wildfire near Merritt

UPDATE 10 P.M.

Fire crews look to have the upper hand on a wildfire near Merritt.

It was sparked when winds blew a tree onto the power lines, according to nearby resident Sandy Labermeyer.

“We had some wicked wind gusts, they were saying between 40 and 60 km/h and there was a great big twister of dirt all of a sudden and then I saw a fire,” Labermeyer told Global News.

“We’re OK. It’s burning up hill. The wind is blowing in the opposite direction (from homes). We’re very fortunate it didn’t go the other way and jump the highway. It would have been a different story.”

The BC Wildfire Service said their investigation into the three-hectare blaze continues as will suppression efforts into the night.

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Crews have laid hoses around both sides of the fire and have more than 40 per cent of the perimeter along Highway 8 hand guarded, fire information officer Nicole Bonnett said.

Tanker action on the blaze was complemented by a helicopter bucket dropping water onto the flames from the Nicola River that runs parallel to Highway 8.

Bonnett said crews expected the fire to be held overnight, but the wind could change that.

Crews from the Merritt Fire Department were also assisting at the scene.

Highway 8 was running single-lane alternating traffic near the fire zone.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Highway 8 was closed to traffic on Thursday evening due to a wildfire about 1 kilometre from Merritt’s city centre.

The BC Wildfire Service says the fire is within Merritt city limits, and is three hectares in size.

READ MORE: B.C. wildfires map 2018: Current location of wildfires around the province

It says ground crews, helicopters and airtankers have been deployed, along with members of Merritt Fire Rescue.

DriveBC said Highway 8 is closed in both directions at Voght Street, and no detour is available. Drivers are being advised to use alternate routes.

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No timeline was given for the route to reopen.