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‘Definite panic’: Hundreds of tourists flee Osoyoos campground and resort as wildfire encroaches

Click to play video: 'Osoyoos-area wildfire threatens homes, campgrounds and a resort' Osoyoos-area wildfire threatens homes, campgrounds and a resort
Global News shot this footage of the fast-moving and aggressive Nk'Mip Creek wildfire that sprung to life near Osoyoos, B.C., on Monday evening, threatening homes, a campground and a popular resort. – Jul 20, 2021

Melissa Hill was vacationing at the popular Nk’Mip Campground and RV Resort in Osoyoos, B.C., with her family when they were awoken in the middle of the night by a security guard advising the family to flee the area due to a fast-moving wildfire.

“Definite panic. We have two kids of our own. We have a friend of my son staying with us, so we have someone else’s child with us, so it was stressful,” Hill told Global News.

Click to play video: 'Nk’Mip Creek wildfire continues to grow in size' Nk’Mip Creek wildfire continues to grow in size
Nk’Mip Creek wildfire continues to grow in size – Jul 20, 2021

Hill said the Nk’Mip Creek wildfire, which sprung to life at approximately 4 p.m. and quickly exploded in size near the northeast side of Osoyoos Lake, was highly visible from the community.

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Read more: More than 200 properties in Osoyoos, B.C., ordered evacuated due to fast-growing wildfire

“We could see it coming up over the hill and it was huge clouds of smoke, billowing clouds,” she said.

“We sat there for hours and watched the bombers and helicopters putting it out.”

Mike Campol, chief operating officer at the Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB), said the winds shifted in the middle of the night, pushing the fire east, towards populated areas.

Read more: West Kelowna mayor renews call for backup power source as wildfire threatens only line

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The OIB, in consultation with the BC Wildfire Service and local officials, decided to evacuate approximately 600-700 people from the campground, and several hundred more from the Spirit Ridge Resort, early Tuesday morning.

Click to play video: 'B.C. wildfires: Nk’Mip Creek wildfire forces evacuations near Osoyoos' B.C. wildfires: Nk’Mip Creek wildfire forces evacuations near Osoyoos
B.C. wildfires: Nk’Mip Creek wildfire forces evacuations near Osoyoos – Jul 20, 2021

“It was a concern all of yesterday afternoon and last night, but in the middle of the night, the wind took a shift, and sent the fire east towards our direction, so that changed the dynamics,” Campol said.

“It’s been all resources, all hands on deck this morning to get these areas cleared out.”

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The wildfire is burning approximately one kilometre away from the campground and resort, he said.

Meanwhile, the Osoyoos Indian Band issued an evacuation order for nearly 200 properties on reserve land, including the band office.

Campol said evacuees are having trouble finding temporary accommodations as hotels and motels are full — at the height of this year’s tourism season.

Read more: Three Valley Lake properties put on alert as wildfire threatens community near Revelstoke, B.C.

“There is not a lot of occupancies this time of year, but as usual, in the South Okanagan, communities stepped up, other bands stepped up, and there were offerings through social media about lodgings, places to stay. The Lower Similkameen Indian Band, the Penticton Indian Band, and local people in this area, they all stepped up,” he said.

Evacuees are being directed to the ESS Reception Centre at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 97, 36217 Main St., in Oliver.

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An additional 60 properties within the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen were placed under an evacuation order, and the Town of Oliver has issued an evacuation alert for a handful of properties within its jurisdiction.

Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie credits great work by the Oliver Fire Department in preventing any homes from being lost.

The Nk’Mip Creek wildfire has grown to 1,100 hectares in size and is burning out of control.

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