It’s been over a week since the Keremeos Creek wildfire first sparked in B.C.’s Southern Interior. As of Monday afternoon, the wildfire, located 21 km southwest of Penticton, has grown to an estimated 5,903 hectares.
The wildfire has forced thousands of people to flee their homes including Olalla resident Jordan Olsoff.
“It’s hard… It’s been stressful because my husband has been away for work, too, so a lot of this I’ve been doing on my own,” she said.
“Gosh, I don’t even know what day it is. It has been a week and a bit since we went on alert, since we left and it’s just been really stressful.”
Her family has been staying with friends but on Monday she went by the temporary evacuation centre in Keremeos to see if other accommodations were available.
“It’s great but it is a lot. That’s why we are back here to see if they can get us into a room and I am hoping they can get us into a room because we have animals, we have two dogs. If not we are probably going to head out to Kamloops to family members, but then I wouldn’t be able to work,” said Olsoff.
Olsoff’s home is one of 547 properties on an evacuation order and another 1,050 properties are on alert.
Although there is no timeline as to when people will be able to return home, BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) says fire suppression efforts have been successful so far.
“The goal of those ignitions is to shorten the amount of time people are out of their homes. It does increase the fire behaviour for the day but the end goal is to get people home as soon as possible.”
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Meanwhile, as of Monday afternoon BC Highway 3A remains closed. Only people with temporary access permits and first responders are allowed through which according to the Regional District of Okanagan- Similkameen (RDOS), has sparked some frustration.
“Certainly, I can understand the frustration that people have that they want to get back to their homes and property and the only way people can go back to their home or property that is under evacuation order, is if it’s an emergency,” said RDOS Information Officer Erick Thompson.
“However having people go back and forth is not a good situation because it’s dangerous. Highway 3A was closed at the direction of BC Wildfire to make sure that the area is safe for both the public and first responders.”
There is no timeline as to when the highway could reopen but officials are asking the public to be patient.
The RDOS Emergency Operations Centre is in regular communication with BC Wildfire Service to assess the status of all evacuation alerts and orders.
Anyone who is on an order or alert is being advised to sign up for Emergency Support Services (ESS) for additional support including housing, food and medication. Registration is online through ESS.