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Mill fire north of Vernon contained, but Highway 97 traffic still impacted

Click to play video: 'Fire sparks in Spallumcheen industrial area' Fire sparks in Spallumcheen industrial area
Fire sparks in Spallumcheen industrial area – Jun 3, 2021

UPDATE: A fire alongside Highway 97 that suddenly roared to life in the North Okanagan on Thursday morning has been contained, but traffic is still being affected as of Friday morning.

A tweet from AIM Roads says motorists can expect single-lane, alternating traffic all day, as B.C. Hydro crews repair damage from the blaze.

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Click to play video: 'Fire along Highway 97 north of Vernon' Fire along Highway 97 north of Vernon
Fire along Highway 97 north of Vernon – Jun 3, 2021

ORIGINAL STORY:

An intense fire is burning in an industrial property along Highway 97 in the North Okanagan.

The fire is happening around 17 kilometres north of Vernon, and emergency crews are on scene.

Drone footage of the blaze shows it burning in a mill/scrapyard.

Along with ground crews, the fire is also being attacked from the air.

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The fire began in the morning, just before 10 a.m., according to one witness, with Highway 97 being closed in both directions between Grandview Flats Road North and Tonasket Road.

However, around 4:30 p.m., DriveBC reported that the highway has been reopened to single-lane, alternating traffic.

One witness, Shealeen Graw, said a train rolled through the area around 9:40 a.m., and that three minutes later, there was grey-black smoke billowing in the area.

“Two minutes later, it was the biggest, blackest clouds. It looked very hot. At first, I couldn’t see the flames. Now the flames are quite visible.”

Click to play video: 'Aerial crews attacking mill fire north of Vernon' Aerial crews attacking mill fire north of Vernon
Aerial crews attacking mill fire north of Vernon – Jun 3, 2021

A B.C. Wildfire spokesperson said the fire is currently contained to the industrial property, burning among stacks of lumber.

The fire’s size is estimated at 1.5 hectares.

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Air tankers were sent to the site, dropping retardant on and around the fire, along with two helicopters dropping buckets of water.

Read more: Area residents renew calls for better fire protection after major landfill fire near Penticton

In related news, Madison Smith of BC Wildfire says the fire danger rating throughout the Kamloops Fire Centre — which includes the Okanagan — is currently moderate to high, with some small patches of extreme.

“Today, as in a lot of areas of British Columbia, we’ve received a lot less precipitation on average,” said Smith. “This year, that’s meant our deeper fuels in the forest are drier than normal.”

To date, in the Kamloops Fire Centre, there have been 83 fires that have burned 1,696 hectares (4,190 acres).

At the same time last year, there were 30 reported fires that burned 115 hectares.

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