Over 300 properties in B.C. Interior ordered to evacuate as wildfire quintuples in size
Keremeos Creek wildfire has grown to 22.6 square kilometres; 438 properties on evacuation alert
UPDATE, Aug. 2, 2022: Cooler weather expected to bring some relief as crews battle wildfires in B.C. Interior
Evacuation orders have now been issued for 324 properties in B.C.'s southern Interior following major growth of the Keremeos Creek wildfire over the last day.
As of Monday at 2:30 p.m. PT, the fire to the southwest of Penticton was estimated at 22.6 square kilometres in size, more than five times the estimate given a day earlier.
"It's not a very predictable wildfire. It's an out-of-control wildfire," B.C. Wildfire Service information officer Bryan Zandberg told reporters at a news conference.
The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) issued a new evacuation order Monday afternoon as well, covering about 50 properties along Sheep Creek Road South and Highway 3A, and north of Olalla.
In total, the wildfire has forced the evacuation of 324 properties so far, and another 438 are on evacuation alert, meaning they should be ready to leave at a moment's notice, according to RDOS information officer Erick Thompson.
Zandberg said activity on the fire has been "very vigorous" over the past 24 hours. Firefighters have benefited from a temperature inversion in the mornings, which keeps smoke low to the ground and limits oxygen to the fire, but that has tended to lift in the afternoon, allowing the blaze to grow.
"We're really ramping up personnel here," he said. "We're definitely mobilizing to be as aggressive as we can."
WATCH | Uncertainty, concern in Keremeos area as wildfire spreads:
He also noted that although B.C. saw a late start to the wildfire season, there has been significant drying of vegetation in the southern Interior in recent weeks that has been conducive to fires.
"It's simply very good fuels in very dry conditions with low humidities," Zandberg said.
The cause of the Keremeos Creek wildfire is still under investigation.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/KeremeosCreekWildfire?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#KeremeosCreekWildfire</a> from Highway 3A just before noon. Helicopters working hard. Very steep terrain and hot winds. <a href="https://t.co/6xCAfyjJu3">pic.twitter.com/6xCAfyjJu3</a>—@JWagstaffe
Over 200 resort properties ordered evacuated
Earlier Monday, RCMP officers were going door to door in the resort community of Apex Mountain Village, where an an evacuation order was issued for more than 200 properties. Dozens of other properties in Apex Mountain are on evacuation alert as well.
The ski resort has been using its snowmaking machines to blast mist at buildings in an attempt to protect them from the blaze.
James Shalman, the resort's general manager, estimated that "a couple hundred" people live in the village during the summer months.
"Right now things are looking good, but you never know if the wind shifts and Mother Nature turns things sideways," he said.
Thompson said people who have to leave their homes can register with the provincial Evacuee Registration and Assistance program for accommodation if they are unable to stay with family or friends.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/KeremeosCreekWildfire?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#KeremeosCreekWildfire</a> watching helicopters fill their water bucket is very impressive… at 3 years old or thirty something years old <a href="https://t.co/L21Q4S1d2W">pic.twitter.com/L21Q4S1d2W</a>—@JWagstaffe
At 7 p.m. Monday, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District Emergency Operations Centre issued an evacuation alert for a small area northwest of Kamloops, where it said the Watching Creek wildfire is growing quickly.
The alert includes the northwest edge of the Lac Du Bois Grasslands and east of there, covering Pass Lake, McQueen Lake and Isobel Lake, as shown on this map.
People living in the area are asked to have everything prepared to leave and to make arrangements to stay with family and friends elsewhere if possible.
Another significant wildfire in the Interior, the Nohomin Creek fire to the northwest of Lytton, was holding steady at about 31 square kilometres on Monday afternoon.
According to the B.C. Wildfire Service, conditions on the fire remained hot and dry on Sunday, but afternoon fire activity did not increase as much as it had on previous days.
Meanwhile, a new wildfire burning 7.5 kilometres west of Kamloops disrupted traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway for a few hours Monday.
Earlier, the wildfire service said the Polygon Pond wildfire was only about one hectare (10,000 square metres) in size but "highly visible" from Highway 1 and Highway 5.
The Polygon Pond wildfire (K20956), 7.5km west of Kamloops, is now classified as Being Held at three hectares in size. Thanks to quick coordinated response from BC Wildfire Service, <a href="https://twitter.com/KamFire?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KamFire</a> , New Afton Fire Rescue and <a href="https://twitter.com/BCRCMP?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BCRCMP</a>, Highway 1 has now reopened west of Kamloops. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BCHwy1?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BCHwy1</a>—@BCGovFireInfo
Shortly after 8 p.m., the wildfire service said the fire was now classified as "being held" at three hectares in size, thanks to help from firefighting crews from Kamloops, the New Afton mine and the RCMP.
The wildfire service also announced Monday that a campfire ban will soon be in place for the Kamloops Fire Centre, which covers both the Keremeos Creek and Nohomin Creek fires.
Starting Thursday at noon, all campfires, fireworks, sky lanterns, burn barrels, chimineas and tiki torches will be prohibited within the region. The restrictions will remain in place until Oct. 15.
A statement announcing the ban said the fire danger ratings throughout the fire centre are currently "high" or "extreme" because of hot and dry weather.
With files from Cali McTavish, Bethany Lindsay, Jon Azpiri and The Early Edition