Uncertainty clear in Osoyoos as tourists and visitors decide whether to stay in town or head out with the Nk'Mip Creek wildfire burning

Businesses in flux by fires

Casey Richardson

With tourist season in full swing in Osoyoos, the Nk'mip Creek wildfire burning in the area and the associated evacuation orders and alerts still in effect, local businesses are being affected differently.

“Some tourists and stuff were nervous, they didn't really know what to do so they were coming in asking for some resources or, you know what we could expect in the days coming forward,” Nav Gill, the tasting room manager at Bordertown Winery explained.

"They were confused and didn't really know what to do or where they may be able to go where there weren't any forest fires because they were on vacation.”

The Nk'mip Creek wildfire sparked on Monday afternoon six kilometres north of Osoyoos and has headed south across the mountaintops. While no residences have been lost, evacuation orders in the area have moved people out.

“We still have a lot of guests staying here and it's really trying to make sure that they get the right information so that they can decide for themselves in their particular situation, if it's important for them to leave the area, or, you know, buckle down a little bit,” Destination Osoyoos Executive Director Kelley Glazer said.

People in the area are left wondering where they can go, and what they should do, and Glazer’s recommendation is that it’s up to their discretion.

“What we are telling people who are on their way or thinking of coming, is that they really need to review all of the official sites and make their decision and of course, contact their accommodation place," adding that each accommodation will have different policies in place.

Businesses are seeing mixed levels of busyness too, noticing the drop in tourists in the area or an increase in customers since places have had to close.

“Well, it's definitely slowed down with everyone being evacuated. But for the most part, it's pretty steady... There's no rhyme or reason to our business. So I don't really know, ” Wesley Greve, the owner of North Basin Brewing Co. said, adding it’s his first summer opening in the area.

Bordertown Winery did notice fewer people coming in on Wednesday, but received a rush of business the night before.

“Just because many wineries had closed on Black Sage Road and even in Osoyoos on the other side of the lake. So we actually got quite busy here….But it was a scary time honestly yesterday seeing the flames and stuff from the tasting room,” Gill said.

Glazer added that it’s a "very difficult balancing act" for the popular tourist town, reopening to visitors again after the pandemic halted travel.

“A lot of businesses were finally able to start regaining some of the losses from basically two years of restrictions on travel. And so, for certain businesses, this has been really hard.”

The mayor of Osoyoos weighed in about tourists on Wednesday, wanting to put safety above all.

"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," Mayor Sue McKortoff told media on Wednesday.

"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."

The RDOS had 379 properties under evacuation order, and 325 under alert as of Wednesday afternoon.

“We're definitely waiting for things to become safe and comfortable before we get excited about inviting people back to us or us. But we definitely will be inviting people back so we can finish our summer season, because we're really only halfway through it,” Glazer said.

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