Dozens of people ordered to leave their homes because of the Keremeos Creek wildfire are now getting the go-ahead to return home.
In a Wednesday morning meeting, a Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) representative said that the evacuation order for homes in the area of Highway 3A, north of Olalla to Sheep Creek Road, was rescinded.
That means the 54 properties in that area are now on an evacuation alert, as the threat from the wildfire has not completely abated.
Properties on an evacuation alert west of Highway 3A have also been rescinded.
The total number of properties within the regional district either on evacuation order or alert, however, remains high. There are 493 properties on evacuation order and 909 on evacuation alert.
Portions of Highway 3A have also reopened, though not the entire stretch. Around Olalla, the road is still closed.
Mikhail Elsay, a fire information officer with BC Wildfire, said Highway 3A remains closed around Olalla in part because BC Wildfire has deployed a lot of structure protection infrastructure into the community during the firefight, and it’s going to take some time to extricate it.
“So that’s why we’re asking that Highway 3A in that area is still closed just so that our crews and workers can pull that stuff out safely,” he said.
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Elsay also cautioned area residents and the public at large to keep in mind that the 6,836-hectare fire remains out of control, despite gains being made in the fight against it.
“Crews have been supported last night with a drone-operated thermal scan that was carried out overnight to give us an even better understanding of where our targeted hotspots will be in that Highway 3A corridor,” Elsay said.
He said the thermal scan allowed firefighters to nail down the final spots, especially the tricky areas in rocky, deep-burning root systems.
“These drones are very sensitive; they can pick up even very small amounts of heat,” he said.
Elsay added that there is no set time for when the firefight will be over.
“It’s a very large fire footprint on the landscape,” he said. “So we’re working as hard as we can (to) get this fire under control, but there’ll be a considerable time yet before we can fully wrap this thing up.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the RDOS held its daily update.
The fire has been slightly downsized to 6,712 hectares after more accurate mapping — down from 6,836 hectares on Tuesday.
“The most recent reports out of the crews mopping up, especially in the (Highway) 3A corridor, is that we’re still finding a lot of heat,” said Elsay. “So we are still going to be doing a lot of work in that area.”
The RDOS says the bulk of the fire is burning between Green Mountain Road and Apex village.
Resources battling the blaze are 282 wildland firefighters, 145 structural protection personnel, 17 helicopters and 44 pieces of heavy equipment.
The fire’s cause is still under investigation.