Evacuation order downsized for Eagle Bluff wildfire near Osoyoos

Click to play video: 'B.C. town on edge after wildfire scare'
B.C. town on edge after wildfire scare
The town of Osoyoos, B.C. is on edge after the Eagle Bluff wildfire, first discovered in Oroville, Washington, cross into Canada, prompting evacuation orders. Heather Yourex-West speaks with residents about the tense experience, and what could cause the wildfire to flare up again. – Jul 31, 2023

A collective sigh of hopeful relief could be heard in Osoyoos, B.C., on Monday.

Despite the quite-close Eagle Bluff wildfire, which crossed from Washington state into British Columbia on Saturday, local officials reduced the number of properties on evacuation order by 540.

Click to play video: 'Studying the social impacts of wildfire disasters'
Studying the social impacts of wildfire disasters

In all, there are now 192 properties on evacuation order, down from 732 on the weekend. However, that downsizing increased the number of properties on evacuation alert, to 2,635 from 2,094.

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Also up: the fire’s overall size in Canada, now pegged at 1,450 hectares, up from 885 hectares on Sunday.

Across the border, in Okanogan County, the fire is sized at 10,000 acres (4,046 hectares). The fire, on both sides of the border, is deemed to be out of control.

Still, the good news: fewer people are on evacuation orders.

An interactive map showing properties under evacuation alert and order is available on the regional district’s website.

“We’re so happy about having the evacuation orders lifted in most places,” said the mayor of Osoyoos, Sue McKortoff.

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Click to play video: 'Eagle Bluff wildfire burning near Osoyoos'
Eagle Bluff wildfire burning near Osoyoos

“I know we still have 192 (properties on evacuation order) still on out there, but we’re very happy about that.”

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Sixty-one firefighters are on scene, along with six helicopters and 11 pieces of heavy equipment. Area fire departments are also providing support, though officials didn’t exactly know how many.

“It’s phenomenal to get that much help,” said McKortoff.

Click to play video: '‘Fire whirl’ forms in Mojave Desert as crews battle California wildfire'
‘Fire whirl’ forms in Mojave Desert as crews battle California wildfire

Officials noted that on Saturday, southerly winds pushed the blaze north. But on Sunday, the winds shifted and pushed the fire back onto itself.

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Shaelee Stearns of BC Wildfire said the fire’s western edge picked up some on Sunday, which is something they’re watching.

“Our main property is the eastern flank,” said Stearns, adding that crews are monitoring all flanks and will act accordingly.

Click to play video: 'More tributes for fallen firefighter in B.C.'
More tributes for fallen firefighter in B.C.

Also, local officials asked boaters on Osoyoos Lake to be aware of aircraft scooping up water to battle the blaze.

“The safety hazard is still there and it’s ongoing,” said Stearns. “It’s important for people to be aware that there’s still a wildfire in the area and aviation suppression is taking place.

“Be cautious when you’re out on the water.”

McKortoff also noted that despite the encroaching wildfire, Osoyoos is still open for business.

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In fact, she said the eastern edge of Osoyoos Lake offers “a bird’s eye view of this fire because it’s on the west side.”

“I don’t think it has inconvenienced any of the visitors,” said McKortoff, adding that all local motels and campgrounds are open.

In related news, a volunteer-based animal welfare organization evacuated two dozen horses on the weekend due to the wildfire.

Click to play video: 'Eagle Bluff fire engulfs mountainside in Osoyoos, B.C.'
Eagle Bluff fire engulfs mountainside in Osoyoos, B.C.

“We are 100 per cent volunteers, no one is paid,” said Daryl Meyers, information officer with Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team Alert.

“When the call comes in from the local authorities or the provincial government, we just put a call out to all of our members and everybody is on response and we just go from there.”

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Meyers says the team connects haulers and livestock swampers, then gets places ready to house animals.

During the weekend, the horses were evacuated to Oliver, though the organization does have facilities it can temporarily use in Penticton and Kelowna as well.

“We’re very grateful to the people who allow us to use their facilities to house the animals,” said Meyers.

And on Monday, the evacuated horses were being returned to their homes.

“That’s a very quick turnaround,” said Meyers. “In previous years, we’ve housed over 100 animals for weeks on end.

“So this has been a really quick turnaround and we’re so grateful to everyone involved.”

More information about the organization is available online.


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