BC Wildfire Service asking dirt bikers to keep out of active fire grounds at South Okanagan-Similkameen wildfires

Dirt bikers asked to stay out

BC Wildfire Service firefighters are requesting the public to keep out of active fire zones, as area restrictions and evacuation orders remain in place at two South Okanagan-Similkameen wildfires.

Fire information officer Scott Southwell said they have received reports of dirt bike riders accessing the Upper Park Rill Creek fire ground early on Thursday.

"Please give us the space we need to do what we need to do safely," he added.

The fire sits between Twin Lakes and Oliver and has no properties on evacuation order at this time, with evacuation alerts remaining in place for 96 properties.

Four pieces of heavy equipment are working alongside 70 wildland firefighters in the area.

"We've got 40 Mexican firefighters taking the line for the first time on the Upper Park Rill fire, and they'll be supported by BC wildfire stuff," Southwell said.

"It will be a real boost to our resourcing and provides the opportunity to strengthen and complete guards all the way around that fire ground."

Firefighters will continue to look for hotspots and extinguish them over the coming days.

"Given that the fire burned through heavy fuels. and also in those higher elevations, the forest layers. And those heavy fuel layers can smoulder for days, even after significant rain. And we've got quite a few smokers popping up across that fire ground, which are all within the fire perimeter today, but still giving us plenty to do."

The Upper Park Rill fire is sharing eight helicopters with the firefighting efforts over to the west at the Crater Creek wildfire near Keremeos. In total, thirteen properties remain on evacuation order in that area, and 74 properties are on evacuation alert.

"Crews are looking to consolidate guards and undertake the danger tree assessment where it safe to do so. And they'll also be looking for and extinguishing hotspots as they continue to pop up over the coming days."

Southwell said it has been nice to receive some significant rain over the fire grounds the last couple of days. One challenge for fire crews has been the Highway 97 closure between Peachland and Summerland.

"We're having to go the long way around when staff is sort of commuting or needing to go between here and Kelowna. One of our aviation personnel is flying up on a daily basis as opposed to taking the long way around," he added.

Fire crews are also waiting on a proper road assessment from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on the Ashnola Forest Service Road.

"It's the same people who are working the landslides. So the Ministry of Transportation is obviously really busy at the moment," Southwell said.

BCWS is also continuing to work with the Cattlemen Association representative around the cattle that are scattered across the northern end of the Crater Creek Fire grounds.

"We were able to safely get some ranchers in there and make assessments on that northern corner yesterday, and ensure that the cattle safety is still being looked after. And likewise, have been liaising with some outfitters across that fire ground as well."

The end goal remains to get both wildfire statuses downgraded from 'out of control' to 'being held.'

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