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Christie Mountain wildfire: B.C. blaze estimated at 2,000 hectares; windy forecast a growing concern

Click to play video: 'Christie Mountain wildfire grows to 2,000 hectares, officials concerned about possible winds' Christie Mountain wildfire grows to 2,000 hectares, officials concerned about possible winds
The possibility of gusting winds are causing concerns in the battle against the wildfire near Penticton that has thousands on evacuation order or evacuation alert. Jules Knox report.s – Aug 21, 2020

The Christie Mountain wildfire in B.C.’s South Okanagan region has grown to 2,000 hectares.

It is currently the second-largest wildfire currently burning in the province.

Earlier Thursday, it had been the largest, but the Doctor Creek wildfire in the Kootenays was updated in the afternoon from 400 hectares to an estimated 3,000 hectares.

Click to play video: 'Christie Mountain wildfire update Thursday morning' Christie Mountain wildfire update Thursday morning
Christie Mountain wildfire update Thursday morning – Aug 20, 2020

Read more: Okanagan weather: Risk of lightning returns Friday

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When the Christie Mountain wildfire was first spotted on Tuesday afternoon near Okanagan Falls, officials estimated it to be around four hectares. But by midnight, it had exploded to 1,000.

The blaze is burning along difficult, rocky and sloped ground, with limited access for firefighters, BC Wildfire said.

Click to play video: 'Christie Mountain fire forces evacuations and evacuation alerts' Christie Mountain fire forces evacuations and evacuation alerts
Christie Mountain fire forces evacuations and evacuation alerts – Aug 19, 2020

Winds could also pose a challenge in the afternoon, with speeds expected of 20-40 kilometres per hour and gusting up to 70 kilometres per hour out of the south.

Nicole Bonnett of the BC Wildfire Service says crews are battling a fire in “nasty terrain,” stating it’s an area that’s known for rock climbing, “which kind of gives everybody a decent idea of how steep it is out there.”

A satellite photo showing hotspot detection from Wednesday of the Christie Mountain wildfire near Okanagan Falls. The company, OroraTech, says there were 146 hotspots at 4:30 a.m., but 376 at 12:30 p.m., and that 12 different satellite sources were used. OroraTech

Bonnett called the fire “a perfect mixture of topography and weather coming into play, which caused the fire to take off quite quickly, and basically wick its way up the gulley.”

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BC Wildfire also said there’s a substantial amount of smoke in the Okanagan Valley from Christie Mountain wildfire and the Palmer fire in Washington state.

Click to play video: 'BC Wildfire Service describes Christie Mountain wildfire terrain' BC Wildfire Service describes Christie Mountain wildfire terrain
BC Wildfire Service describes Christie Mountain wildfire terrain – Aug 20, 2020

Eighty-four firefighters are on scene, along with nine helicopters. Another 20 crew members were en route and set to arrive in the afternoon, BC Wildfire said.

With the possibility that the fire could grow, regional district chairperson Karla Kozakevich said residents in the evacuation alert area that “now is the time to activate your household emergency response plan.”

Nearly 3,700 properties in the southeast portion of Penticton, near the airport, are under an evacuation alert.

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City manager Donny van Dyk said strong winds are expected Friday, which could trigger the current evacuation alert into an order.

“Should this fire behaviour trigger the movement of alerts into evacuation orders, we’ve gone out of our way to prepare three specific areas,” said van Dyk.

The city is asking residents under the evacuation alert to pre-register online in case an evacuation order is issued.

Click to play video: 'City of Penticton planning for possible fire growth' City of Penticton planning for possible fire growth
City of Penticton planning for possible fire growth – Aug 20, 2020

The city is asking residents under the evacuation alert to pre-register online in case an evacuation order is issued.

Further, Erick Thompson with the regional district Okanagan said “for those that are on an evacuation alert, you may get very little notice if fire conditions change.”

He said the notice will come from BC Wildfire, and that it could be a tactical evacuation “if things are going in a different direction than we hope they do. So be prepared for that. We hope that doesn’t happen, but it’s always good to be prepared.”

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Click to play video: 'Christie Mountain wildfire update Thursday morning' Christie Mountain wildfire update Thursday morning
Christie Mountain wildfire update Thursday morning – Aug 20, 2020

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