Keremeos Creek wildfire grows to more than 4,200 hectares

Fire grows to 4,250 hectares


UPDATE: 5:55 p.m.

The Keremeos Creek wildfire has ballooned again.

It is now estimated at 4,250 hectares in size. That’s a big increase from the last update, when it was at 2,750 hectares.

The BC Wildfire Service says the change in size is due to both natural fire and planned ignitions.

BCWS adds that a change in the fire perimeter’s shape is because the previous perimeter map included an area that was not visible to be mapped due to smoke so included in the estimated perimeter.

Aerial ignitions were conducted in the Yellow Lake/Sheep Creek area today and were supported by ground crews. The targeted area was approximately 200 hectares in size.

Crews were also reinforcing containment lines along Highway 3A.

As crews develop solid containment lines and when structures are no longer deemed at risk structural protection will be slowly downsized.

UPDATE: 2:45 p.m.

BC Wildfire Service is planning a roughly 200-hectare planned burn in the Yellow Lake and Sheep Creek area around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, taking advantage of mild winds and slightly cooler temperatures to fight back against the out-of-control Keremeos Creek wildfire.

It will be highly visible in the area, and the highway may be slow for a time as they deal with rolling debris near Yellow Lake. It may be closed or delayed intermittently for brief amounts of time.

"Rolling debris can be anything from rocks, trees, anything that's loosened from a hillside, due to activity along the hillside," said BCWS information officer Marg Drysdale at a briefing Wednesday.

"If you have steep slopes, this is often an occurrence and our crews actually deal with it a lot, simply because for them it can be a safety issue, if they are below. And they are taught to be very cautious and not to be in an area where there's debris that can come down on them but obviously they have set some debris down onto the road, and they will be dealing with it."

Drysdale said they are lucky to have so much support on site.

"Today we have 252 firefighters [on the wildfire,]" Drysdale said, a mix of BCWS firefighters and from fire departments all around the Interior.

"We have 10 helicopters on site and four pieces of heavy equipment. There will be additional heavy equipment in the coming days."

The size of the wildfire is still listed at 2,790 hectares, and according to Drysdale, that may not be updated until about 24 hours from now due to smoky areas of the blaze making mapping difficult.

Crews are looking at a four to five day window of good firefighting conditions before major heat is expected to return. Drysdale says they are capitalizing on that window.

"That's one of the reasons we have so many resources on this fire now. They can do some really great work in a short time and move things along very quickly," Drysdale said.

In the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, 324 properties are under evacuation order, and 479 are under evacuation alert.

Residents are eager to reenter their evacuated properties and Drysdale said BCWS understands, and is doing everything they can.

"We understand how stressful it is for people to be out of their homes. We take it very seriously. We lift orders and alerts as soon as we are able to do so,” Drysdale explained.

BCWS and the RDOS have been working closely with Chief Greg Gabriel with the Penticton Indian Band, among other Band members and Lower and Upper Similkameen Band members.

"It is that relationship between the First Nations community and the emergency services agencies that just helps when these types of issues come up," Gabriel said.

"[It] helps that makes it easier in some ways that you can attack these occurrences in different ways."

BCWS is unable to predict the potential longevity of the fire.

"But what I can say is that with the number of resources and the conditions we have right now, we are making fabulous progress and expect to make great progress over the next few days," Drysdale said.

Gabriel echoed the sentiment, and added gratitude to everyone working on the fire.

"I just want to make sure everybody really acknowledges everyone that's involved in keeping our community safe, especially those firefighters that are out there on the ground right now," Gabriel said.

For more information on evacuation alerts and orders and to access an interactive map in which you can enter your address to find out whether the wildfire impacts you, click here.

For the latest road closures and alerts, check DriveBC.ca.

UPDATE: 2 p.m.

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen Emergency Operations Centre is providing an update on the wildfire at 2 p.m.

Watch live above.

UPDATE: 11 a.m.

More evacuation alerts have been added related to the Keremeos Creek wildfire.

A total of 41 properties, most in the Grand Oro Road area in Electoral Area G and I as well as two more properties along Highway 3A have been added to the alert.

Total Properties under Evacuation Order: 324
Total Properties under Evacuation Alert: 479

RDOS Emergency Support Services has registered 157 residents. Fifty-five are lodging in local hotel rooms and 10 more are biletting at local homes.

The ESS says group lodging is established but is not being utilized at this time.

A reception centre for evacuees is available at Princess Margaret Secondary School at 120 Green Ave in Penticton. This Reception Centre will be open 9 am to 5 pm today.

For a full list of impacted properties and updates on evacuation alerts and orders, click here.

ORIGINAL: 9:40 a.m.

BC Wildfire Service remains attacking the Keremeos Creek wildfire, which as of Wednesday morning is still estimated at 2,790 hectares.

It is still listed as out of control. The fire is close to Highway 3A at Yellow Lake, so while it was closed Tuesday, crews carried out small planned ignitions.

A control line is progressing along the highway which will limit growth and allow crews to safely access and establish containment lines.

More planned ignitions are in the works on the east flank of the fire in the next 24 hours.

More than 320 properties in the area of the fire, including Apex Mountain Resort, remain on evacuation order and hundreds more are on alert. Find a full list of orders and alerts here and information for evacuees here.

Resources attacking this fire now are:

  • 137 firefighters
  • 10 helicopters
  • Four heavy equipment
  • 137 wildland firefighters are assigned to this fire working with an additional 115 structural protection personnel from fire departments across BC for a total crew complement of 252 firefighters.

Structure protection will be established where and as needed as crews move forward with planned ignitions along Highway 3A.

Additional crews are establishing control lines from Green Mountain Road working west and preparing Cedar Creek Road for potential burn operations.

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