Hundreds of properties in the Southern Okanagan remain evacuated Tuesday afternoon and more residents have been warned to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
The Keremeos Creek wildfire, burning near Penticton, B.C., has grown to more than 27 square kilometres since it was spotted a few days ago.
Erick Thompson, information officer with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen Emergency Operations Centre said as of 2 p.m. there are 324 properties under evacuation order and 438 under evacuation alert.
Thompson provided a breakdown saying, in Electoral Area G, there are 24 properties under evacuation order and 197 properties under evacuation alert.
In Electoral Area I there are 300 properties under evacuation order and 241 under evacuation alert.
One property in the Lower Similkameen Indian Band is also under evacuation order.
Thompson said structural protection support is in place at that location.
Areas under evacuation alert will continue to receive garbage collection at this time, he confirmed.
Thompson wanted to remind everyone who has been forced to leave their homes that temporary access permits will not be granted unless it is an emergency situation, such as leaving animals or pets behind but individuals will have to contact the RDOS in order to gain permission.
Residents can also contact the Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team (ALERT) at 250-809-7152.
Due to this volatile wildfire, Hedley Nickel Plate Road is closed in both directions. There is no detour available with the next update to be provided on Aug. 4.
Highway 3A is also closed due to the wildfire between Keremeos and the Highway 97 junction.
Crews are dealing with “extremely steep terrain” when fighting the Keremeos Creek fire, Bryan Zandberg, information officer for the BC Wildfire Service, said Tuesday afternoon during a briefing.
On Tuesday, the fire has not increased further and cooler temperatures are helping, Zandberg said.
He said they have seen some “spicy behaviour” such as the movement that forced the closure of Highway 3A but crews have continued to set up protection areas Tuesday, which will help slow and stop the spread of the wildfire.
No more structures have been lost aside from the one shed that has already been confirmed, Zandberg added.
“We have very, very active operations with this fire,” Zandberg said. “We’re really shifting to be more aggressive on it now that we’ve got the people and we’ve got the equipment and we’ve got the right temperatures and the right weather.”
He said there are eight helicopters bucketing water, and some fire retardant was dropped along ridgelines on Monday.
There are also 229 firefighters battling the blaze as of Tuesday morning.
Crews stationed at Apex Mountain Resort are also helping to keep the Keremeos Creek wildfire at bay.
Molly Raine fire prevention officer with Apex Volunteer Fire Rescue, said Tuesday they can see the smoke columns of the fire from the village.
She said the resort has set up its snow-making guns at the lower part of the resort to hopefully stop the fire from spreading that way. They can also be used on the buildings to help keep them cool and damp, if necessary.
There are now four wildfires of note burning in the Kamloops Fire Centre.
These are fires that are highly visible or which pose a potential threat to public safety.
Aside from the Keremeos Creek wildfire, the Maria Creek wildfire is burning six kilometres northeast of Pavilion, northwest of Bonaparte, and is an estimated 800 hectares in size.
The BC Wildfire Service said conditions were hot and dry Monday and fire activity increased midday. The fire grew to the northeast in the afternoon and is burning in a densely forested area.
This means smoke will be highly visible from Clinton, Cache Creek, Highway 97 and surrounding areas.
The fire continues to be active Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Nohomin Creek fire, burning approximately 1.7 kilometres northwest of Lytton, on the west side of the Fraser River, is now 3,162 hectares in size.
An evacuation alert remains in effect for this fire.
The BC Wildfire Service said Tuesday there has not been a significant increase in fire activity.
There continues to be growth in high elevation areas, north of the Stein River, and west into the Stein Valley upslope of the Stein River. In this area, the fire is burning on steep cliffs and rocky terrain where fuels are sparse and growth is driven by wind and rolling debris.
The Watching Creek wildfire, burning approximately 16 kilometres northwest of Kamloops is an estimated 195 hectares in size.
An evacuation alert is in effect and the fire is currently classified as out of control.
It was discovered on July 29 but on Monday, a combination of high temperatures, steep terrain and increased wind activity created more intense fire behaviour, the BC Wildfire Service said. Crews on the ground required evacuation by helicopter to leave the wildfire area.
While the Keremeos Creek wildfire is the most concerning at this time, the biggest fire currently burning in B.C. is located near the Yukon border. Around 54 kilometres southwest of Watson Lake, and located just north of Blue River in rugged terrain, the fire is sized at 11,067 hectares.
It was discovered on July 2, and is now considered being held.
There are 56 wildfires larger than 0.01 hectares burning in B.C. with the total number of fires, including spot fires, at 506.