BC Wildfire: Keremeos Creek wildfire fight far from over, cooler temperatures and possible storms in forecast

Not time to drop guard

UPDATE: 3:20 p.m.

BC Wildfire Service says it is looking at a long battle against the Keremeos Creek wildfire, and even when evacuation orders are rescinded, residents will still be dealing with an active fire zone for some time.

Fire information officer Mikhail Elsay said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon that while significant progress through controlled burns and containment lines has been made in the past few days, now is not the time for anyone to drop their guard.

People on evacuation order should heed that, and those on evacuation alert — more than 1,000 to date — should stay vigilant.

"For those that are on evacuation alert, whether you're closer to the fire or a little bit further away, we ask that you be ready to go at a moment's notice. As much as we are putting as much effort as we can to get containment on [the fire], We are still dealing with with weather and dry conditions that could change," Elsay said.

BCWS structure protection specialists are available in the alert areas checking out properties, and anyone living at one of those properties is urged to do what they can to FireSmart their property in case the alert does change to an order.

The forecast in the short term looks cooler than recent days, but with that comes potential issues.

"The biggest thing that the crews will notice for sure is that the lower temperatures will just won't be as draining on their bodies," Elsay said, on the positive side of things.

"The weather that we're tracking is basically an upper-low with subtropical moisture coming up through Washington and Oregon this afternoon into this evening and into tomorrow. That weather may come with some rain and some cooler temperatures. It's forecast for that. But we're also concerned that that may bring thunderstorms and with that, erratic winds and potentially lightning which could give us some new starts."

A total of 413 fire crew members are assigned to the wildfire along with a plethora of heavy equipment and air support, based at a camp in Oliver.

To date, 606 registrations with the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen Emergency Support Services have been made. ESS can be reached at 250-486-1890.

All evacuation orders and alert remain in place. A full interactive map plus more helpful phone numbers and links can be found online here.

There is no exact timeline for when Highway 3A may reopen or homes may be downgraded from order to alert, and even when they are, BCWS urges patience from the public.

"Slow down when you see the workers, give everyone as much space as possible," Elsay said.

"We're going to be working on this on this fire for a considerable time yet."

Watch the full replay of the Keremeos Creek wildfire update for August 9 below:

UPDATE: 2 p.m.

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen and BC Wildfire Service are hosting a live update on the Keremeos Creek Wildfire at 2 p.m.

Watch live above.

UPDATE: 9:45 a.m.

The Keremeos Creek wildfire is now estimated at 6,836 hectares in size, with much of the growth due to planned ignitions carried out in recent days, and crews continue to work towards reopening roads and evacuation zones.

Conditions cooperated overnight Monday into Tuesday, according to an update from BC Wildfire Service Tuesday morning.

"Today will be sunny with a max temperature of 29 C and minimum RH of 15%. Winds are expected to be light today. An upper ridge remains over the region, generating hot and dry conditions under a stable airmass," reads the update.

"This morning there is an inversion near 1500 metres, which will break near noon. With light winds, venting will be poor to fair."

A key objective is to continue to work towards the end goal of returning residents under evacuation order to their homes.

That work will include mop-up operations in the wildland urban interface, and mop-up along the Highway 3A corridor. BCWS is working closely with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on discussions about when it is safe to reopen that road.

Fire information officer Brian Zandberg said Monday that when the highway does reopen, the public is urged to drive slowly and safely as it will still be an active wildfire work zone.

ORIGINAL: 6:20 a.m.

Fire behaviour is increasing at the Keremeos Creek wildfire southwest of Penticton, the BC Wildfire Service says.

Aggressive fire behaviour persists in the naturally free-burning areas of the fire where wind and slope align, BCWS said in a Monday night update.

"A key objective ... is to continue reducing impacts to the public in a timely fashion. This requires completing mop-up operations in the wildland urban interface to facilitate residents returning home in a safe manner," the wildfire service said.

Crews continue to mop up the fire along Highway 3A corridor to facilitate return of evacuees and reopening of the corridor.

Structural protection firefighters continue "to protect properties in all areas of concern at fire’s edge. Night operations continue with both wildland and structural crews patrolling, mopping up as needed."

Two hundred and forty five wildland firefighters are backed by an additional 160 structural protection personnel from fire departments across B.C. with 22 fire engines and 14 water tenders.

"The structure branch continues to work in the Sheep Creek, Green Mountain and Apex areas but is reassigning resources where and as needed. Structure protection crews including engine operations and sprinkler systems continue to be utilized in Olalla," BCWS says.

New control lines from planned ignitions conducted over the weekend are said to be holding well.

Crews are working to encircle the fire along the western and northern flanks, thanks to increasingly stable lines on the southern and eastern sides of the fire.

Key work areas include Olalla Forest Service Road, Green Mountain Road to the north, the Apex Mountain Resort area, Cedar Creek, and Dividend Mountain.

On the western flank, crews are using direct attack methods from Green Mountain Road to Keremeos Creek Forest Service Road. Heavy equipment continues to be used to establish contingency lines from Apex Mountain over Dividend Mountain to south Keremeos Creek.

Crews are mobilizing up into Cedar Creek to start building line tying into south end of Dividend Mountain.

On the eastern flank, containment lines continue to be established in the northeast quadrant. Crews continue to construct line around Hedges Butte towards McKay Creek as well as building fuel free and hand guard from McKay Creek towards Green Mountain Road.

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