Parts of Keremeos placed on evacuation alert due to looming wildfire

Evac alerts reach Keremeos

UPDATE 4 p.m.

Nearly 40 more properties have been added to the RDOS' evacuation alert list, in the Farleigh Lake and Marron Lake areas.

Find the list of evacuation orders and alerts and what you should do if your property is impacted online here.

UPDATE: 3:20 p.m.

The fight against the Keremeos Creek wildfire is far from over, as crews work around the clock to battle both the blaze and weather conditions while protecting local homes.

The wildfire sparked Friday, July 29 and has so far resulted in the loss of one home.

As of Thursday Aug. 4, 407 properties southwest of Penticton are on evacuation order, and hundreds more are on evacuation alert.

The properties are all in either Electoral Area G, rural Keremeos, or Electoral Area I, rural Kaleden/Apex, within the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen.

RDOS Area G director Tim Roberts said Thursday that his constituents are worried about the highly visible wildfire.

"The concern of course is with the embers and falling debris," Roberts said.

"People are very concerned in regards to their path to safety, whether or not and how quickly they will find out, if and when, during operational needs, that Highway 3A closes down, whether or not they are heading towards Penticton or if they're heading south, the seven kilometres to Keremeos."

An evacuation centre has been set up in Penticton at Princess Margaret Secondary School for anyone eligible to access Emergency Support Services. There is currently no plan to have an evacuation centre in Keremeos, according to RDOS CAO Bill Newell.

BC Wildfire crews are doing their best to keep as many properties as safe as possible, and while cooler temperatures have helped, the weather forecast shows wind is on the way.

"It's still an uncontrolled fire. Very much an interface fire when you look at the fire and where residences are and where ranches are," explained BCWS incident commander Bryan Zandberg Thursday.

"Yesterday evening it shot up [on the] western side of Cedar Creek ... Then we had some winds at about 30 kilometres an hour pushing it right back down towards some of the residences and ranches in the Cedar Creek area again just above Olalla. It got everybody jumping, I'll say that much."

He said it was "a bit of a battle" to protect all the houses in the area, but they have not lost any more structures since a remote home was destroyed this past weekend.

As of Thursday afternoon, a total of 175 wildland firefighters are assigned to this fire working with an additional 170 structural protection personnel from fire departments across BC for a combined crew complement of 345 firefighters.

Containment work is well underway on all of the aggressive edges of the fire. Approximately 200 hectares of controlled burns have already been conducted, with the distinct possibility of more to come, conditions permitting.

"The big concern is the cold front coming with those winds. That's just really helping us determine that we need to really button down all the areas where we've been active," Zandberg said.

"We're just sort of seeing that winds are just variable depending on which part of the fire you're on, and depending on which time of day it is. So there's just a lot of local wind effect that's driving this fire into different corners and pockets and we've been seeing that now ever since we arrived on the fire."

Zandberg said they are expecting a heating and drying trend moving into the weekend, with little precipitation.

"I mean, I felt a couple drops out there today, but it's nothing. So yeah, all [those] matters are top of mind right now."

The wildfire is estimated at 4,250 hectares as of Thursday, but BCWS notes that may change when more accurate mapping is possible.

For anyone wondering about their evacuation order or alert status, or looking for resources, check the RDOS interactive map online here.

To reach the Emergency Operations Centre for support related to the wildfire, call 250-490-4225. For immediate emergencies, call 911.

UPDATE: 2 p.m.

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen along with BC Wildfire Service is hosting a livestreamed update on the Keremeos Creek wildfire at 2 p.m. Thursday.

Watch the stream above.

Casey Richardson

UPDATE: 12:50 p.m.

More evacuation orders have been announced in relation the the Keremeos Creek wildfire.

An additional 40+ properties along Highway 3A, on the west side in Olalla and south of Olalla, are now under order, including the Sagewood (also known as Ridgeview) and Olalla mobile home parks.

Residents must leave immediately. Find information about all resources available through the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, including an interactive map of all evacuation alerts and orders, online here or call 250-486-1890 for assistance. If you need transportation help, call 250-490-4225.

Anyone worried about evacuating their pets or farm animals can contact ALERT for help at 250-809-7152.

Members of the RCMP and other associated agencies will be going door to door to help expedite the evacuation.

A total of 175 wildland firefighters are assigned to this fire working with an additional 170 structural protection personnel from fire departments across BC for a combined crew complement of 345 firefighters.

UPDATE: 12 p.m.

A smoky skies bulletin has been issued for the South Okanagan due to the Keremeos Creek wildfire.

Activity ramped up overnight near Olalla on Highway 3A and smoke is very heavy in that area.

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen and BC Wildfire service will be hosting a live update at 2 p.m., which will be found in this story at that time.

For information on how to deal with smoke and who could be particularly vulnerable to adverse health effects, click here.

UPDATE: 11:30 a.m.

Castanet reporter Casey Richardson is live on scene with a look at the Keremeos Creek wildfire from Olalla.

UPDATE: 10:15 a.m.

An updated map for the Keremeos Creek wildfire is expected Thursday morning.

The estimated size of 4,250 hectares in size does not account for growth of the fire overnight. A new perimeter map is expected shortly.

"Overnight, downslope winds in excess of 30 km/hr drove fire downhill along Hwy 3A southwards towards Olalla. Currently the fire is still within the evacuation order boundaries," reads an update from BCWS.

"Crews worked through the night on structure defense around the Cedar Creek drainage and kept fire on the west side of Highway 3A. Crews reported rank 4 fire behaviour through the overnight periods."

Wind and slope continue to be the biggest contributing factors to fire behaviour.

The Olalla Creek Forest Service Road has been closed until further notice.

UPDATE: 9:20 a.m.

The Keremeos Creek wildfire located 21 kilometres southwest of Penticton is still estimated at 4,2500 hectares as of Thursday morning, according to the latest information from BC Wildfire Service.

"Today, crews will be reinforcing containment lines along Hwy 3A to Sheep Creek Staging as conditions allow. This will involve burning using drip torches to deal with any remaining unburnt fuels," reads an update from BCWS.

"Crews are building line from Hwy 3A continuing with containment using Cedar Creek FSR on the eastern flank to the north."

The fire's status is listed as "Active," no longer "Out of Control." Evacuation orders for 324 properties and alerts for hundreds more still remain in place. Stay up to date on evacuation orders and alerts online here.

"Crews were challenged yesterday on the northeastern flank but are making good progress and concentrating their efforts on any areas that would be advantageous to protecting homes and infrastructure," BCWS says.

Intermittent closures to Highway 3A were necessary Wednesday and overnight to facilitate crews working on planned ignitions.

The highway is now open but BCWS reminds travellers to check DriveBC for the latest.

ORIGINAL: 6:30 a.m.

Highway closures were back in effect at the Keremeos Creek wildfire overnight.

DriveBC reported two closures on Highway 3A, east of Keremeos.

The first was between Upper Bench Road and Twin Lakes Road over an 18.7-kilometre stretch east of the Similkameen Valley community. The second was between Main Street and Stagecoach Road.

The closures were cleared as of 6 a.m., however.

DriveBC advised commercial transport trucks should not use Highway 3A between Keremeos and Highway 97 as there are limited turnaround locations along the route. They were advised to use Highway 3 instead.

Hedley-Nickleplate Road between Highway 3 and Nickleplate Mine, and Green Mountain Road between Apex Mountain Road and Highway 3A both remain closed due to the fire.

Meanwhile, the fire was estimated at 4,250 hectares in size as of Wednesday evening.

The BC Wildfire Service expects more growth as this fire burns into more inaccessible areas.

Aerial ignitions were conducted in the Yellow Lake/Sheep Creek area Wednesday, supported by ground crews.

The targeted area was approximately 200 hectares in size, and activity was expected to be visible from both Keremeos and Kaleden.

Crews were challenged Tuesday on the northeastern flank, but are making good progress and concentrating their efforts on areas that are advantageous to protecting homes and infrastructure, BCWS said.

On Wednesday, crews were building a containment line from Highway 3A, using Cedar Creek Forest Service Road on the eastern flank, to the north.

Crews will continue with burning from the highway along the north end of Yellow Lake toward Sheep Creek Road.

From Sheep Creek Road on the northern flank, crews will continue building control lines.

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

Environment Canada is calling for temperatures to drop by almost 10 degrees in the area, from the low 30s recorded Wednesday to expected highs of no more than 23 C today and Friday.

A total of 479 properties, including Apex Resort, remain evacuated, while residents of another 324 properties in the area are on evacuation alert.

-with files from Jon Manchester

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