Fire fight through night

UPDATE: 7:15 a.m.

Cool temperatures and minimal wind kept the Joe Rich Wildfire from spreading overnight. Officials with the BC Wildfire Service say the fire remains mapped at 380 hectares in size.

Wildfire officials will reassess the size of the fire later this morning.

Heavy winds that helped spread the fire quickly Thursday are not expected to materialize today. Temperatures under partly cloudy skies are only expected to reach about 24 degrees today.

The evacuation order, affecting about 1,100 people in Joe Rich remains in place today.

That order will also be reassessed this morning.

Highway 33 remains closed from Gallaghers Road to Big White Road. A detour route for non-commercial vehicles is available via McCulloch Road.

UPDATE: 6 a.m.

Firefighters remained on the Philpott Road wildfire off Highway 33 east of Kelowna overnight.

Fire crews from 15 departments around the Okanagan plus the BC Wildfire Service were fighting the blaze Thursday night.

A morning assessment is expected at first light, and Castanet will update with more information as it becomes available.

Last estimates Thursday night were the fire was 380 hectares in size.

Cool and calm conditions this morning should help in the fire fight. As of 6 a.m., it was a chilly 6 C in Kelowna.

UPDATE 9:20 p.m.

The Central Okanagan Regional District says they've had no reports of any structures being impacted by the 380-hectare Philpott Road wildfire, but they are expecting "a more detailed assessment of damage" over the next few days. 

The BC Wildfire Service still considers the large blaze to be "out of control" and 1,100 people remain evacuated from the Joe Rich area. 

The size estimation of 380 hectares has remained stable since about 6:40 p.m.

Fire fighters from 15 different fire departments will remain at the blaze overnight, putting out hotspots. Additionally, 19 firefighters from the BC Wildfire Service are on scene. 

The Emergency Support Services reception centre at Rutland's Willow Park Church, where evacuees can register, will close at 10 p.m. and reopen Friday at 10 a.m.

UPDATE 7:50 p.m.

A 26-kilometre stretch of Highway 33 will remain closed through the evening as fire crews from 15 different fire departments along with the BC Wildfire Service fight the Philpott Road wildfire. 

The highway will remain closed from Gallagher Road to Big White Road, but those needing to bypass the blaze can use McCulloch Road, a gravel road that runs south of Highway 33. 

The BC Wildfire Service still estimates the fire is 380 hectares in size, and 1,100 people from 474 properties, all of Joe Rich, remain evacuated. 

While the BC Wildfire Service has yet to confirm if any homes have been lost to the blaze, Castanet has received unconfirmed reports that some homes have been burned. 

UPDATE 7:10 p.m.

Winds appear to have shifted around the Joe Rich wildfire.

Plumes of smoke which were visible up and down the valley early this afternoon have now dissipated and moved to the south as the winds now appear to be coming out of the north.

Environment Canada says winds could gust as high as 70 km/h from the north this evening.

One Castanet reader who just came down from the area says he was told firefighters have, at different times, had to pull back because the flames were so intense.

Because the area is outside the city boundaries, there are no fire hydrants, meaning water has to be trucked in, complicating firefighting efforts.

There are also unconfirmed reports some structures may have been lost as a result of the wildfire.

UPDATE: 6:40 p.m.

The wildfire burning out of control on the north side of Highway 33 near Joe Rich continue to grow.

Fanned by strong winds, gusting at times to 50 km/h, the fire has grown to an estimated 380 hectares since it first sparked at about 1:30 this afternoon.

"Wind is always one of the determining factors with wildfires," said fire information officer, Melanie Morin.

The current forecast suggests northerly winds of 40 kilometres and hour, gusting to 70 could hit the Central Okanagan this evening.

Structural firefighters from up and down the Okanagan Valley, and beyond, are lending a hand to fight the fire.

Initially crews from Joe Rich, Kelowna, Ellison and Lake Country were called in to help fight the blaze.

Firefighters from 11 other jurisdictions have either joined in the fight, or are en route.

These include firefighters from Peachland, Summerland, Penticton, BX/Swan Lake, Merritt, Enderby, Lumby, Armstrong, Coldstream, Salmon Arm and Grand Forks.

The BC Forest Service has a ground crew of seven, with 12 more firefighters on the way. Four helicopters and air tankers are also on site.

Morin says heavy equipment has been brought in to help build fire guards.

She adds structures are in the vicinity of the fire, with the closest about a kilometre away. Morin says as she has not heard of any structures being lost.

The entire community of Joe Rich, about 1,100 people, have been evacuated.

Those evacuated are asked to register at the Emergency Support Services reception centre at the Willow Park Church on Highway 33 in Rutland.

UPDATE: 6 p.m.

The smoke pillar from the Philpott fire is towering over the Okanagan.

Reports are coming in that it is visible from as far away as Cherryville to the north and past Peachland to the south.

UPDATE: 5:15 p.m.

The Emergency Social Services reception centre is now open at Willow Park Church located at 439 Highway 33, for residents who have been evacuated due to the wildfire on Philpott Road.

UPDATE: 4:52 p.m.

Highway 33 remains closed due to the wildfire burning in the Joe Rich area.

The highway is closed north to Big White Road and south to Gallagher Road.

Firefighters from Penticton, Coldstream, Lumby and BX/Swan Lake are either already on scene or are coming to the scene to assist in the firefight.

Castanet reporter Nich Johansen said police are only letting people who need to get through up Highway 33 past Gallagher Road and Black Mountain Road.

UPDATE: 4:35 p.m.

The Philpott wildfire is now estimated at 300 hectares in size, according to the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations centre.

The fire is being fanned by steady winds gusting up to 50 km/h.

UPDATE: 4:05 p.m.

FortisBC is working with emergency officials to assess damage from the Philpott Road Fire in the Joe Rich area of Kelowna and determine the impact on the FortisBC electricity system.

To ensure public safety, Fortis has interrupted service to approximately 2,500 customers in the area.

Once the area has been made safe and the necessary repairs to FortisBC infrastructure has been made, the utility company will have a clearer idea of the estimated restoration time.

If customers have any concerns or to report a natural gas emergency or power lines down, they can call the Fortis customer service line directly:

Natural gas emergencies: 1-800-663-9911 (24 hours)

Electricity emergencies or power outages: 1-866-436-7847 (24 hours)

UPDATE: 3:50 p.m.

An evacuation order has been issued for the entire area of Joe Rich.

This affects residents from Walker Hill on the Highway 33 western boundary of Kelowna, to Big White Road and the east and Mission Creek and Joe Rich Creek along the south. 

The evacuation is for 474 properties and affects an estimated 1,100 people.

Structural fire crews from the Joe Rich, Kelowna, Ellison and Lake Country departments are fighting the blaze, which was reported shortly after 1:30 p.m. They are joined by BC Wildfire Service crews on the ground and in the air.

An Emergency Support Services reception centre is being set up at Willow Park Church, 439 Highway 33 West in Kelowna. ESS volunteers will be available starting at 5 p.m. to help evacuees. 

The public is asked to avoid the Highway 33 area so emergency responders can effectively perform their duties.

UPDATE: 3:30 p.m.

Kelowna RCMP are assisting in the emergency tactical evacuation of residents in the Joe Rich area due to the wildfire burning in Highway 33/Philpott Road region.

Police are going door to door to inform people to get out of the area.

Evacuation orders have been issued for properties on several roads north of Highway 33, including:

  • Goudie Road
  • Huckleberry Road
  • Daves Road
  • Goshawk Road
  • Hawk Road
  • Falcon Road
  • Falconridge Crescent
  • Sun Valley Road
  • Cardinal Creek Road
  • Peregrine Road
  • Philpott Forest Service Road
  • Three Forks Road
  • Thelwell Road
  • Greystokes Road
  • Dion Road
  • Schram Road

In order to ensure public safety and the ability for emergency crews to access the area, RCMP have closed Highway 33 East in both directions between Goudie Road and Schram Road. RCMP ask that the public avoid the area and plan a different route in order to assist in the safe evacuation of all affected residents.

Smoke from the fire is reaching several thousand metres into the air. People in all corners of the Okanagan and beyond can see the smoke plumes.

UPDATE: 3 p.m.

The Emergency Operations Centre has been activated as evacuations continue in, and around, the wildfire at Philpott Road and Highway 33.

Properties are being evacuated from Cardinal Creek Road to the eastern boundary of the regional district.

In addition, properties east of Greystokes Road must evacuate via McCulloch Road.

All properties to the west of Cardinal Creek Road are on evacuation alert and should be ready to leave at a moment's notice.

Those ordered to evacuate are asked to report to the Emergency Support Services reception centre being established at the Willow Park Church beginning at 5 p.m.

Highway 33 has also been closed at Cardinal Creek Road to allow ground and air crews room to fight the blaze.

Motorists are being asked to avoid Highway 33 if at all possible.

The fire, which sparked at about 1:30 this afternoon, has already grown to 40 hectares in size.

Firefighters from across the Central Okanagan have joined the fight, as have ground and air crews from the BC Wildfire Service.

UPDATE: 2:55 p.m.

The BC Wildfire Service says the Philpott fire is burning 20 kilometres east of Kelowna and is approximately 40 hectares in size.

It is burning out of control, said fire information officer Melanie Morin.

The wildfire service has an initial attack crew on scene and helicopters and airtankers are arriving any minute.

Morin said there are structures in the vicinity, but they are not threatened at this time.

UPDATE: 2:25 p.m.

Castanet reporter Nich Johansen says a wildfire burning in the Highway 33 and Philpott Road area "is a beast."

Johansen made it as far as the RCMP roadblock at Highway 33 and Peregrine Road. He expected that to be moved further west as the fire moves in that direction.

UPDATE: 2:20 p.m.

Castanet reporter Nich Johansen is close to the scene of the wildfire in the area of Highway 33 and Philpott Road in Joe Rich. According to Johansen, one helicopter has arrived to begin bucketing.

Two helicopters and a fixed wing aircraft have been dispatched by the BC Wildfire Service.

Wind is still blowing fairly strong in the area.

We have also had reports of a plume of very black smoke amongst the white smoke emanating from the fire.


Several homes on Philpott Road are being evacuated due to a wildfire on Highway 33 at Philpott Road.

Fire crews from Joe Rich and Kelowna are on the fire, while air and ground crews have been requested from the BC Wildfire Service.

The province is sending two helicopters and one fixed wing aircraft to hit the fire from the air.

Residents in Joe Rich are saying the wind is strong. The fire is burning at a rank two and rank three.

ORIGINAL: 1:50 p.m.

Fire crews are at the scene of a wildfire in progress at Highway 33 and Philpott Road.

The fire was called in about 1:30 p.m.

Crews say the fire is exhibiting Rank 2 and 3 fire behaviour.

Winds in the area are described as brisk, and there are apparently multiple fire starts.

Air support has been requested from the BC Wildfire Service.

Castanet has a reporter heading to the scene.

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