Evacuations in Oliver

UPDATE 9 p.m.

The Testalinden Creek fire is now estimated at 450 hectares in size.

The blaze is burning aggressively due to open fuel and wind in the area.

The Wilson’s Mountain fire is still estimated at 90 hectares. Wildfire Management officer Kayla Pepper says this fire has not grown as aggressively due to flames burning down slope and natural guards in the area.

There are at least 50 firefighters on scene moving between the two fires, and they are being assisted by local fire departments.

The two fires that sparked in Oliver about 6 p.m. are burning aggressively and have forced evacuations in the area.

One blaze is burning just one kilometre north of Oliver, near Wilson’s Mountain Road. It quickly grew to 90 hectares, which prompted an immediate evacuation order and alert for the area.

Kayla Pepper with the B.C. Wildfire Service says there is also a second fire near Testalinden Creek, about seven km south of Oliver. It is estimated at 200 hectares in size and growing. There is an evacuation order and alert for that area as well.

“We dispatched crews out of Penticton and are relocating crews out of the rest of our fire centre, and we are working with the local fire department, as the Wilson’s Mountain fire is in their jurisdiction,” she says.

A helicopter was called in for air support, however, the weather conditions posed too much of a safety risk.

“Wind is a key factor in both the fire spread and why we can’t use air tankers,” says Pepper.

There are structures nearby, however, it’s unclear how close the flames have come to homes.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Simillkameen (RDOS) has opened a Level two Emergency Operations Centre to assist in coordinating the fires.

Rick Chipurda lives in the area and says the Testaliden Creek blaze is close to Highway 97 and homes.

He tells Castanet he can see open flame, and there is a lot of smoke in the area.

“We live on Road 20, and we are packing up, getting ready to go, although no one has told us to leave yet,” he says.

Chipurda says it was very windy in Oliver earlier in the evening, and he saw lightning earlier in the day.

The cause for both fires remains under investigation.


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