A wildfire in the South Okanagan is growing rapidly, forcing people from their homes on Saturday.
An evacuation order has been issued by the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District for 25 properties on Green Mountain Road – which is about 21 kilometers southwest of Penticton – and another 357 properties in the Apex area are in evacuation alert.
BC Wildfire Service says the fire is displaying “aggressive and erratic” behavior and is growing rapidly – growing from 100 hectares Friday night to 440 hectares Saturday.
“It can be very confusing,” said Erick Thompson, information officer for the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District Emergency Operations Center.
“It is important to have a plan in place if you need to leave your property, certainly if you feel threatened and there is no evacuation order or alert in place. You need to be prepared to move to another area. And do that as soon as possible,” he added. Kamloops Fire Center Superintendent Kaitlyn Baskerville says that while it can be difficult to leave behind your property and personal effects is the safest thing to do right now.
“It’s not necessarily just about your property. It’s also about the community around you and doing the right thing and keeping our crews safe as well,” she said.
The Keremeos Creek fire was discovered on Friday and one structure has already been destroyed.
A smoky sky bulletin was also issued for the South Okanagan.
“Smoke from wildfires is a natural part of our environment, but it’s important to keep in mind that exposure to smoke can affect your health,” the bulletin read.
“People with pre-existing health conditions, respiratory infections such as COVID-19, the elderly, pregnant women and infants, children, and susceptible individuals are more likely to experience health effects from exposure to smoke,” he continued.
Officials are urging nearby residents to continue to check for updates as the situation is rapidly evolving.
“We have been here before. I don’t think there is cause for concern at this time. We will continue to analyze the situation once there is sufficient justification to recommend an alert or an order” , Baskerville said.
Although the cause of this fire is still unknown, the majority of new fires in the province in the past 24 hours have been started by lightning.
The service indicates that the fire is in an area unusable for the support of air tankers and heavy machinery.
Dozens of crews are on site trying to quell the blaze, but steep and rocky conditions make it difficult, Baskerville says.
The Keremeos Creek fire is just one of at least 70 active fires in the province.
While high temperatures and dry conditions have increased fire activity, a climatologist says conditions are not as bad as last year and the short-term outlook looks positive.
“I think Monday, Tuesday and definitely Wednesday the heat dome will have broken and will be back to some rain but seasonal temperatures so a lot of relief for people out west,” the lead climatologist said. Environment Canada. Dave Phillips.
BC Wildfire reminds anyone who spots a fire to report it immediately.
With files from The Canadian Press
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