Smoky skies bulletin issued for South Okanagan amid controlled burns
Flames north of Keremeos, B.C., continue to keep hundreds from their homes
The B.C. government is warning of smoky skies in the South Okanagan as controlled burns have increased emissions from the Keremeos Creek fire southwest of Penticton.
A smoky skies bulletin issued Monday says the area, which includes Penticton, Summerland, Naramata, Keremeos, Oliver and Osoyoos, may be affected by smoke over the next 24 to 48 hours.
Planned ignitions meant to fight the Keremeos Creek wildfire, which has grown to 59 square kilometres — an area more than half the size of Vancouver, have led to more smoke in the region, according to the bulletin.
It asks anyone experiencing symptoms such as chest discomfort or severe coughing to seek prompt medical attention and call 911 in the case of an emergency.
The B.C. Wildfire Service says crews saw fewer new fires over the weekend than expected, given the heat — but they are working to control several larger fires before a spell of lightning that could arrive later this week.
The service on Monday said firefighters are still focused on eight fires of note, including the stubborn fire north of Keremeos.
"It has been a pretty quiet weekend for us, despite us seeing some building in temperatures and some dryness that's even creeping north," fire information officer Erika Berg said in an interview with CBC's The Early Edition.
"In terms of new fire starts, nothing of note to report. So we continue to focus on those larger fires of note."
Nearly two-thirds of B.C.'s active fires are in the Kamloops and Southeast fire centre regions in the southern Interior. They include all of the province's current fires of note — wildfires that are particularly visible or pose a threat to property.
Crews used a combination of tools, including controlled burns, to control the Keremeos Creek fire, which has been burning for more than a week.
The service has also assigned crews to put in sprinkler systems to protect properties in the northeast quadrant of the area.
The fire has prompted evacuation orders for more than 500 properties and put more than 1,000 others under orders to be ready to leave at short notice.
The service has a crew of 381 firefighters, 16 helicopters and 43 pieces of heavy equipment fighting the blaze.
Berg said rain and cooler temperatures had helped slow overall fire activity slightly over the past week, but temperatures are expected to climb again this week. Dry lightning could also occur through the Interior.
"When that lightning does roll through ... there is that potential for new fire starts," she told CBC News.
Other fires of note include the Watching Creek, Maria Creek and Nohomin Creek fires in the Kamloops Fire Centre region, as well as the Bridge Creek, Connell Ridge, Cummings Creek and Weasel Creek fires in the southeast region.
Berg said people should remain cautious and pay attention to fire bans. Campfire bans are in place across all of southern B.C., with large open fires banned throughout the province.
She also said people near fires should work to fireproof their homes.
LISTEN | Fire information officer Erika Berg provides an update on existing wildfires:
With files from Akshay Kulkarni, Jon Azpiri and The Canadian Press