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Many structure protection crews from across BC have left Penticton as threat of Christie Mountain wildfire subsides

Focus on southwest flank

UPDATE: 6:35 a.m.

With stable weather Saturday, fire behaviour at the Christie Mountain wildfire on the outskirts of Penticton was minimal for most of the day.

Forty firefighters remained on scene overnight, with support from multiple fire departments and structure protection personnel. 

Meanwhile, the BC Wildfire Service tweeted its thanks to residents of the area Saturday night for their continued support for firefighting efforts, and their diligence in adhering to evacuation alerts, orders and area restrictions.

An aerial track of the fire adjusted its size to approximately 2,035 hectares. Video showed minimal fire behaviour and limited growth over the last few days.

Crews continued to build upon progress on the southwest flank, strengthening control lines and reinforcing those at Skaha Provincial Park.


UPDATE: 8:30 p.m.

The Christie Mountain wildfire was not very active Saturday as winds died down considerably from those experienced Friday.

According to the latest information from the BC Wildfire Service, "the atmosphere was stable...and fire activity was minimal for most of the day."

However, fire activity has begun to increase on the fire's southern flank.

"The fire is burning in difficult rocky and sloped terrain with limited access points for ground crews and heavy equipment," officials said in their latest update.

Two hundred BCWS firefighters were working on site in conjunction with structure protection personnel and multiple fire departments.

They were aided by 16 helicopters and six water tenders.

"The aviation fleet has been doing an excellent job at holding the fire and buying us time to follow up with crews."

All evacuation orders and alerts remain in place, as does an area restriction notice for areas around the fire.


UPDATE: 5:50 p.m.

The BC Wildfire Service has updated the mapping of the Christie Mountain wildfire.

According to new information, the fire is now estimated at 2,025 hectares in size.

The fire has grown only 35 hectares, despite strong southerly winds Friday.

According to the latest information, 200 firefighters have been working on the fire in conjunction with structure protection personnel and multiple fire departments.

Sixteen helicopters and six water tenders are providing support.

Crews will continue to reinforce control lines at Skaha Provincial Park and will be looking for potential areas for small burn out opportunities. They made great progress on the southwest flank of the fire building and strengthening control lines for values protection.

BCWS will continue to closely monitor trigger points throughout the day.


UPDATE 1 p.m.

Despite harrowing wind Friday, work by ground and air crews, as well as reduced fuels from the 1994 Garnet wildfire, prevented significant growth of the Christie Mountain wildfire towards Penticton. 

But with shifting winds now pushing the fire south, officials are maintaining the evacuation order of Heritage Hills until crews can get control of that flank of the fire, as it creeps towards unburned fuel. 

“We haven’t lifted the [evacuation] order because we haven’t felt 100 per cent comfortable yet, and when we do, we will. We don’t want to be premature on this,”  Dan Taudin-Chabot, operations section chief of the BC Wildfire Service, told a news conference Saturday.

“The combination of our aviation fleet and our ground crews has really slowed down the fire growth,” he said. “The other thing that has been in our favour, the fire was actually running into the old Garnet fire from '94, so that has taken a bit of the steam out, or the fuels out.

“Now we are getting winds pushing on the fire in a direction that we haven't seen yet. So for us, it’s really important that we gain and establish control, with the winds pushing the other direction before we make any decisions.”

Penticton Fire Chief Larry Watkinson said 61 pieces of staffed equipment and 143 firefighters from across the province worked to defend the city Friday, deploying wetlines and conducting patrols in at-risk neighbourhoods.

“Those 61 pieces of fire apparatus certainty did impact our community and the residents were very appreciative of that, as I know from the comments that I’ve received," he said. 

Fifty-five of those pieces of equipment and roughly 110 firefighters were sent back to their communities this morning.

“What we’ve gathered, and the intelligence that we’ve received from the BC Wildfire Service… we feel very confident that the fire is no longer threatening structures, adjacent to the fire, in the City of Penticton,” Watkinson said, adding his crews are still working to protect structures within the RDOS.

Watkinson gave a massive thank you to the other fire departments that sent crews and equipment to protect the city. He credited the provincial coordination of crews as a key difference between the Christie Mountain fire and the Garnet fire of 1994 that destroyed 18 homes.

Penticton city manager Donny Van Dyk said he expects the evacuation alert in city limits to remain in place for a few more days.

Mayor John Vassilaki urged residents in the evacuation alert area to keep their bags packed for the time being.

ORIGINAL 9 a.m.

The sky is blue this morning in Penticton as crews regroup after a night fighting the Christie Mountain wildfire. 

The BC Wildfire Service says, despite Friday’s high winds, the blaze has seen minimal fire activity over the last 24 hours and has grown just 35 hectares.

The fire is still estimated in size as 2,000 hectares, but that figure will be updated today.

“The size that has been reported has always been an estimate since it has been difficult to track this fire from the ground due to terrain,” BCWS said. “We are working to get a more accurate track this morning and an official size will be updated at that point.”

It is expected BCWS will speak with media alongside the City of Penticton and RDOS at a noon press conference that will be live streamed on Castanet.

Two-hundred provincial firefighters will work the blaze Saturday in conjunction with structure protection personnel and fire departments from across B.C.

“They will continue to build upon their progress on the southwest flank of the fire, strengthening control lines for values protection with support from 16 helicopters and six water tenders,” BCWS said.

Trigger points will continue to be monitored throughout the day.

Winds have been calm Saturday morning, blowing from the north at between 5-13 km/h. Environment Canada is expecting winds from the north for the rest of the day at 10-15 km/h with a high of 28 C.

While the skies are blue, Environment Canada reissued a smoky skies bulletin for the South Okanagan, advising residents the area will continue to see smoke for the next 24-48 hours.



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