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Work continues on two wildfires in the South Okanagan

An aerial view of smoke-filled skies at Olalla, B.C., where the Keremeos Creek wildfire last week.
An aerial view of smoke-filled skies at Olalla, B.C., where the Keremeos Creek wildfire last week. BC Wildfire Service

Two wildfires are still burning in the South Okanagan: the Keremeos Creek wildfire near Penticton, B.C. and the Richter Mountain fire near Osoyoos.

The Keremeos Creek wildfire is estimated at 6,948 hectares and although fire conditions are now considered stable, the fire is still classified as a fire of note.

“For the vast majority of the fire, really low fire activity. You can see a little bit of smoke popping up in a few places but well within the interior of the fire,” said BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) information officer Forrest Tower.

“There’ll be weeks left of work on this fire. It’s a large fire, lots of lines to get through, so we’ll have a presence here for quite some time.”

As crews continue to battle a difficult spot of the fire, an evacuation order for the Apex Mountain and Green Mountain Road area will remain in place.

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There is no timeline as to when the remaining evacuees will be able to return home, but BC Wildfire Service says the firefight is headed in the right direction.

Read more: Hundreds of homes near Keremeos Creek wildfire remain on evacuation order

“We need to ensure we’re really confident with containment lines before we put in any recommendations to local governments,” said Tower.

“And then as well there’s a large amount of structure protection in the Apex area and so giving those structural protection specialists time to remove that gear when the time warrants.”

Currently, 230 wildland firefighters are dedicated to the blaze with support from 30 to 50 structural protection personal, 17 helicopters and heavy machinery.

Meanwhile, BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) said they are resourcing crews and equipment from the Keremeos Creek Wildfire to support a second fire burning in the South Okanagan.

That fire dubbed the Richter Mountain wildfire, broke out on Friday approximately 17 kilometres west of Osoyoos.

“The Richter Mountain was classified as being held around 10:00 a.m. [Sunday],” said Tower.

“Crews have a guard from the highway up each side of the fire and they’re working on just getting around the top. I think in the next couple of days here, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re moving to the next stages of control to get this one under control and then eventually call it out.”

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BC Wildfire said they are aware that a truck caught fire along the highway but have not officially confirmed a connection to the Richter Mountain wildfire.

“Right now, it’s suspected human cause but as always, with all these wildfires that aren’t clearly started by lightning we have to do a pretty rigorous investigation into the actual cause before we can officially label it,” said Tower.

“That investigation is still going and it’s really important we get those right. If it’s human-caused, there are other implications that we’d have to follow through under various legislation.”

As the Okanagan goes into a warming trend, BCWS is predicting an uptick in fire activity.

“Obviously, it’s a bit warmer, we’re going into a warming trend but on most areas of the fire crews are now into that sort of mop-up patrol,” said Tower.

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Wildfire crews are actively working along Highway 3A near the Keremeos Creek wildfire and Highway 3 near the Richter Mountain fire and BCWS is asking that drivers slow down in those areas.

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