A growing wildfire near a BC mountain resort triggered an evacuation order for the town Monday morning.
Burning southwest of Penticton, the Keremeos Creek wildfire was measured at 437 hectares on Sunday night. But as of Monday afternoon, the wildfire had grown dramatically and was measured at 2,264 hectares, according to the BC Wildfire Service.
Hundreds more evacuation orders were issued Monday, including dozens in Apex Mountain Village. Those in the area were told to leave immediately and wait for the RCMP to help expedite the process.
an evacuation order it was also announced Monday by the Lower Similkameen Indian Band for some properties around Green Mountain Road. One was also announced for properties in Electoral Areas G and I, including part of Olalla.
“There are crews working in the area, so while there may not necessarily be an immediate danger to those homes, such as in a fire outside the building, it may be because there are fire crews in that area doing important and dangerous work. . So having people in the area is not ideal,” said Erick Thompson, information officer for the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District.
An evacuation center has been set up at Princess Margaret High School at 120 Green Ave. in Penticton.
Thompson is urging everyone who has property under an evacuation or alert order to register in the province even if they do not require immediate assistance.
“If you sign up, you have access to services and can really help identify who is in the area and who is not,” he said. “There are a number of homeowners that are not present and if they are in a different part of the province, or a different province, it can really help identify who needs the service.”
Nearly 250 properties fall under the new evacuation order and 110 more properties are under evacuation alert. Thompson says now is the time for those people to make preparations.
“Having a kit to go is very important. So anyone who’s under an evacuation alert needs to take those steps ahead of time,” Thompson said.
“During an evacuation order when people have to leave immediately, they should not take boats or trailers. That can obstruct the evacuation route. It is important that people take this into account. During an evacuation alert, that’s the time to move those important items.”
The fire was discovered on Friday and authorities say it has been a challenge to fight as much of the fire “is located in terrain inoperable for the support of air tankers and heavy machinery.”
According to the BC Forest Fire Service, 144 people are now assigned to the fire and more are expected to join the fight in the coming days.
“We’re really bringing in the resources that we need to attack this fire as aggressively as we can,” Fire Information Officer Bryan Zandberg said. “There is a heat advisory and we are concerned about heat exhaustion for our crews and just being in this kind of rough terrain and rough weather. However, we have plans for that.”
Nine helicopters are also being used to drop water on the fire, which Zandberg says is burning on steep, rocky terrain that is difficult to access with ground crews and equipment.
He said that the weather conditions have been favorable in the mornings, but have changed in the afternoons with the increase in winds that feed oxygen to the fire.
“We had rank four and rank five fire behavior yesterday, so it’s a very vigorous fire,” Zandberg said. “You’re seeing trees shimmering, you’re seeing a bit of an organized flame front. It’s mostly on that inaccessible terrain.”
Local fire departments including Keremeos, Naramata and Summerland have dispatched crews and trucks to focus on protecting structures. At least one structure has been destroyed.
Over the weekend, Apex Mountain Resort deployed its snow cannons to spray water on its buildings and infrastructure in an effort to prevent them from catching fire from windblown embers.