Thomas Creek fire in Okanagan Falls at 1,500 hectares in size, planned ignitions starting to help burn fuels

Thomas Creek at 1,500 ha

UPDATE: 9:18 p.m.

BC Wildfire Service will be using planned ignitions between the fire guard and the fire perimeter to eliminate available fuels for the Thomas Creek wildfire in Okanagan Falls.

The fire is has grown to 1,500 hectares, according to an evening update from BCWS, since the visibility in the area increased and more accurate mapping could be done. The fire is still out of control.

Thirty personnel were responding to the blaze on Tuesday, along with assistance from six helicopters, multiple pieces of heavy equipment, Structure Protection Units and the local Fire Department.

Four personnel and two water tenders will remain on site.

Plans are for ground personnel to work on the west flank of the fire closest to homes, working with heavy equipment to establish and reinforce fire guards.

More than 700 properties remain on evacuation alert.

Updates on this fire will resume at 7 a.m.

UPDATE: 3:50 p.m.

The Thomas Creek wildfire has grown to 1,100 hectares.

According to a BC Wildfire Service update Tuesday afternoon, the blaze is still classified as out of control.

Thirty firefighters, six helicopters and multiple pieces of heavy equipment, along with structure protection units and the local fire department, are on scene.

UPDATE: 2:40 p.m.

The Thomas Creek wildfire is still listed as "out of control" by BC Wildfire Service, and the fight from the air has ramped up.

BCWS posted an update Tuesday afternoon that maps the fire at 900 hectares still, which is no change from Monday night, but adds that 30 firefighters and six helicopters are on scene.

This is an increase from three helicopters Monday.

They also have assistance from multiple pieces of heavy equipment.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

UPDATE: 12:20 p.m.

"You've got to plan for it."

Longtime Okanagan resident Christian Gingras has prepped his property in the Thomas Creek wildfire area and is ready to go if need be.

After years living everywhere from Kelowna in 2003 when the major Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park burned a total of 25,912 hectares, and Summerland in 2018 when the Mount Eneas fire sparked, Gingras was hardly surprised when a knock came at his door Sunday telling him he was one of 77 properties under evacuation order and needed to leave.

"It's unpredictable because it's so dry. They did everything they could to put it out two days ago and that was two big bombers, six hydroplanes and giving it their best shot with two helicopters. That was a lot of equipment. And they managed to slow it down, but during the night kept going up that was on the other side of the creek here," Gingras told Castanet reporter Casey Richardson Tuesday, speaking in the Thompson Creek area where he lives.

"It's concerning. You realize you're more vulnerable than you think. It could go up in flame in a hurry."

The evacuation order has since been downgraded to an alert. Gingras said he and the others who live on his property have prepped it, creating a buffer zone by removing dead trees and brush.

He described that the edge of the fire is about 300 yards from the road that leads to his home.

"I'm seeing the fire today in the flames in the trees coming closer to home," Gingras said.

"Fire travels very fast in these conditions."

Castanet is awaiting an update from BC Wildfire Service on the size and scope of the Thomas Creek wildfire sometime today.

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen said this morning that the general trending direction of the fire's movement, southeast, is leading it mostly away from homes.

DriveBC is reporting that Eastside Road between Smythe Drive and Main Street in Okanagan Falls has now reopened to vehicle traffic, a further sign the fire is moving east away from Skaha Lake and town.

-With files from Casey Richardson

Casey Richardson

UPDATE: 11:30 a.m.

Reporter Casey Richardson was live on scene at Thomas Creek with another look at the fire fight.

Helicopters and skimmers are visible from the scene, and the air is extremely smoky.

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen is asking people to stay clear of the east side of Skaha Lake south of Heritage Hills to give fire crews plenty of space.

The same goes for boaters on Skaha Lake. Watercraft can interfere with airfcraft that need space to pick up water and head back to the fire.

Castanet is awaiting an update from BC Wildfire Service on the size of the fire and scope of the fight. The latest update was Monday night which pegged it at 900 hectares.

It is still listed as out of control.


UPDATE: 10:35 a.m.

More than 700 properties remain on evacuation alert near Okanagan Falls in the area of the Thomas Creek wildfire Tuesday morning.

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen provided a brief informational update Tuesday morning. The fire is reportedly still moving in the southeasterly direction, away from homes.

On Monday, the RDOS had 77 properties on evacuation order, though that was lifted late Monday afternoon.

During the crisis, 16 people accessed Emergency Support Services through the Emergency Operations Centre, 12 of whom were billeted and four of which were put up in hotels.

"Wildfires and situations can change very quickly, if your property is under an evacuation order for an evacuation alert you are asked to register with evacuee registration and assistance," said RDOS communications manager Erick Thompson, which can be done at ess.gov.bc.ca.

"This is a very effective tool to be able to help make sure you get the services you need."

The phone number for the RDOS Emergency Operations Centre is also a helpful tool for anyone with questions: 250-490-4225.

BC Wildfire Service is expected to provide an update on the Thomas Creek wildfire at some point Tuesday morning. At the moment, as of the latest update on Monday evening, it is estimated at 900 hectares.

ORIGINAL: 9:50 a.m.

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen is providing a live update on the Thomas Creek Wildfire.

Casey Richardson is on scene of the Okanagan Falls Thomas Creek wildfire and will be providing updates through the day.

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