Sirens blared in Osoyoos, B.C., on Wednesday night as the Nk’Mip Creek wildfire lit up the night sky and unpredictable winds fanned the flames down the mountainside.
The 2,000-hectare blaze licked the doorsteps of homes on a hillside vacation rental subdivision called The Residences at Spirit Ridge, perched above the resort on the southernmost edge of the Okanagan Valley.
“It came right to the driveways, pretty much,” said Mike Campol, chief operating officer of the Osoyoos Indian Band. The OIB owns the land under threat.
“Wind predictability was completely inconsistent with what happened,” added Campol.
“That could be a result of other wildfires happening throughout the area. The winds shifted several times last night, which made fighting it challenging.”
The Osoyoos Fire Department and structural protection crews from the BC Wildfire Service rushed to the area to save homes.
“They have sprinkler systems and water systems set up around those homes,” said fire information officer Dani McIntosh.
“They are working with the power companies and the residents to use the wells on the property to ensure that there are adequate water sources, and they will be able to turn those on immediately if there is any imminent danger to them.”
McIntosh said crews are assessing the damage, so it’s too early to say if any structures were damaged, but Campol said he’s unaware of any homes being lost.
“It was a bit sketchy there,” he said.
“Without them coming together with that plan, and bringing the resources they did throughout the night, the result could have been far different.”
The OIB reinstated an evacuation order for the Residences at Spirit Ridge and adjacent Spirit Ridge Resort for, at least, the next 48 hours.
An evacuation order for the Nk’Mip Campground and RV Park will be lifted today, but campers will remain under an evacuation alert. Vacationers can return to the campsite on Friday.
“Fifty percent of people who were on the evacuation order left, those people who were here for short-term stays,” Campol said.
“Our seasonal and year-round campers at the RV Park and scattered throughout the area, I am not telling anyone to go home. As long as people are out of the way … we could be sitting here in 24 hours or 48 hours with this thing completely under control.”
McIntosh said the Nk’Mip Creek wildfire, burning in mountainous terrain on the east side of Osoyoos Lake, has grown substantially in size, but officials cannot provide an accurate size as mapping has been hindered by poor visibility and heavy smoke in the area.
“I do expect that the fire is larger; there has been quite a bit of growth,” she said.
Wildfire crews remain focused on protecting people and property on the west side of the fire.
“Today, on the west side of the fire, there has been ongoing burnout operations and a cat guard has been put in place by heavy equipment,” McIntosh said.
“A reminder to residents and visitors to please keep clear of the operational areas. Our crews and helicopters are working and it’s to keep our crews safe.”
An evacuation order, issued July 19, for dozens of properties on the Osoyoos Indian Band reserve was partially rescinded on Wednesday night.
Those homes will remain under an evacuation alert.