Tourists to South Okanagan being reminded of the wildfire situation, and what emergency services are not available to them

Reminders to tourists

Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen board and staff members are reiterating that while tourists are an important part of the local economy, if you have been evacuated from a campground or resort, it may be easier to return home.

"A lot of our resorts and hotels are full so it's not like we can just accommodate lots of people," said Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff.

"Several people here were camped sort of on the side of the road, and in the Buy Low parking lot, hoping this would pass soon and they would be able to get back to enjoying their camping."

McKortoff was delighted to hear the news Wednesday that the Town of Princeton has opened up RV spots to registered evacuees.

"Tourists are an important part of all our communities in the Okanagan but our first job is to make sure that people are safe and that people are obeying the rules. My recommendation is if you're planning a trip to the Okanagan, Osoyoos in particular, please check before you go," McKortoff said.

"Check with your motel that everything is fine, make sure you go on DriveBC to ensure that the roads are open. This is a volatile, very volatile situation and we sure don't want to put people at risk. And if you are not able to come up and enjoy the Okanagan right now ... we sure hope [you] will later."

RDOS CAO Bill Newell added to McKortoff's comments, reminding the public that while an Emergency Support Services reception centre has been set up, only residents are eligible for that help.

"So any visitors to the area, for anybody on alert, or those who have secondary residences that are up there right now and may get evacuated, they'll be on their own," Newell explained.

Communications coordinator and EOC information officer Erick Thompson added he had recently been speaking to a representative with the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association further north who mentioned that in areas where there are evacuation orders and alerts in place, tourism operators are "basically taking a pause" with guests.

"They are reminding people that this is a 365 day a year tourism location so you're certainly very welcome to come back anytime," Thompson said.

"There are of course areas that are very much open for business, we've heard of people who are still going on wine tours in places like Naramata and Okanagan Falls, so the doors aren't shut. You just need some situational awareness."

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