Large pyrocumulus cloud forms as Thomas Creek fire explodes to 5,000 hectares

Fire explodes to 5,000 ha

Casey Richardson

UPDATE 5:55 p.m.

The BC Wildfire Service says the Thomas Creek wildfire near Okanagan Falls has exploded in size to 5,000 hectares.

The fire, previously estimated at 1,500 hectares, is demonstrating “aggressive” fire behaviour.

“Due to the winds in the area, smoke is very visible from Penticton to Vernon. This fire will remain highly visible over the next few days while BC Wildfire Service continues to respond,” BCWS said on social media.

Castanet has also been sent photos from the Similkameen, where the plume is also visible.

The fire has been burning up and away from Okanagan Falls, into the wilderness.

There are 33 personnel on site being assisted by six helicopters, air tankers and multiple pieces of heavy equipment.

UPDATE 5:15 p.m.

A massive pyrocumulus cloud is now hanging over the Thomas Creek wildfire east of Okanagan Falls.

The plume of smoke is visible from as far as the Central Okanagan and Similkameen.

The BC Wildfire Service has said it planned on carrying out planned ignitions on the 1,500 hectare fire today, but Castanet is awaiting confirmation that those controlled burns are the cause of the massive plume.

Colin Fong, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said earlier this month pyrocumulus clouds form when hot air from an intense fire rises. When the air reaches high enough into the atmosphere, it cools to forms clouds.

Fong said the clouds develop in a similar manner to thunderstorms.

“Warm air rises, as we all know, so as it rises further and further up into the atmosphere, it gets cooler and cooler. … Once it rises to a certain point in the atmosphere, that's when clouds form,” Fong said.

Fong said pyrocumulus clouds aren’t uncommon, and the high ridge of pressure hanging over B.C. causing high temperatures make the cloud formation more noticeable.

with files from Kristen Holliday

UPDATE: 4:40 p.m.

BC Wildfire Service has implemented an Area Restriction Order for the vicinity of the Thomas Creek wildfire.

The order is now in effect and will expire Oct. 15, or until it is rescinded. It applies to Crown land within the geographic boundaries of the map below.

It means "a person must not remain in or enter the restricted area without the prior written authorization of an official designated for the purposes of the Wildfire Act."

Exceptions include a person:

  • travelling to or from his or her principle residence that is not under an evacuation order;
  • travelling to or from private or leased property for the purposes of accessing a secondary residence or recreational property that is not under an evacuation order;
  • travelling as a person acting in an official capacity;
  • travelling for the purpose of supporting wildfire suppression activities;
  • engaging and/or participating in agricultural activities pertaining to livestock or vineyard management on private or leased property.

Failure to comply could result in a $1,150 fine.

UPDATE: 2:33 p.m.

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen has confirmed 704 properties will remain under evacuation alert Wednesday afternoon.

The Emergency Support Services Reception Centre is now closed, so all properties under alert should register online with ESS Evacuee Registration & Assistance tool here.

The public is reminded to avoid the area from Heritage Hills to Skaha Lake, both on Eastside Road and on Skaha Lake itself.

Aydan Coray, a fire information officer with the Kamloops Fire Centre explained that BC Wildfire service could not confirm the direction of the wind or where the fire is moving currently, as conditions change throughout the day.

"With the growth yesterday, it was towards the eastern side of the fire, but at this time it could be different," she added.

"Ground personnel will continue their focus on the west and southwest flanks of the fire closest to homes in the area."

BCWS continue to utilize planned ignitions to eliminate fuels between the fire perimeter and fire guard.

Boaters are reminded to avoid Skaha Lake to allow air crews to conduct operations safely, as the aircraft continues to use the area for firefighting operations.

"Stay clear, stay off the water. I know it is exciting to watch, they are quite interesting to see so if you cna watch from afar that is great, but try to stay off the water as much as possible."

PreparedBC is a helpful online resource to help your family prepare for emergency events including information about how to plan and what to pack.

UPDATE: 10:40 a.m.

BC Wildfire Service has reported no change in size overnight to the Thomas Creek wildfire. It remains out of control, and at 1,500 hectares, according to their Wildfires of Note page.

700 properties are on evacuation alert.

BCWS resources on scene Wednesday include 30 firefighters, six helicopters, multiple pieces of heavy equipment, structure protection units and the local Okanagan Falls fire department.

The cause of this fire is under investigation at this time.

Casey Richardson

ORIGINAL: 9:45 p.m.

The Thomas Creek Wildfire remains at 1,500 hectares, and more than 700 properties are still on evacuation alert.

Reporter Casey Richardson is heading out to provide a live look at how the fire appears from the community Wednesday morning.

The wildfire sparked Sunday and grew rapidly. It has been highly visible from surrounding communities throughout, currently causing very hazy skies looking south from Penticton.

Boaters are urged to stay off Skaha Lake in the area of the fire to avoid interrupting skimmers and helicopters at work.

BC Wildfire Service told Castanet Wednesday morning at 9:40 a.m. that they expect an update on size and scope of the fire within the next hour or so.

It is still classified as out of control.

More to come.

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