Crews fighting fire with fire in Okanagan Valley as Eagle Bluff blaze expected to spread
More than 240 properties remain on evacuation alert
A wildfire burning in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley that has resulted in an evacuation alert and an air quality advisory is now nine square kilometres in size.
The area of the Eagle Bluff fire has quadrupled since Monday afternoon, when it was estimated to be 2.25 square kilometres.
"Some of that growth, or change in size, is due to some better mapping that we were able to get yesterday evening when some of that smoke cleared up," said Nicole Bonnet with the B.C. Wildfire Service.
"And then some of that size is also attributed to the fact that we did see some growth yesterday evening and a little bit throughout the night."
Hundreds of properties are on evacuation alert, with the alert expanded Wednesday evening to include 41 more properties in the McKinney Creek area. Additional properties were added to the alert earlier Tuesday afternoon to include the Senkulmen Business Park in Oliver, B.C. — which includes the 378-cell Okanagan Correctional Centre.
People affected by the alert should be ready to leave on short notice.
"It's scary, very scary," said Karen Greve, whose home is just across a small lake from the fire.
"Especially when you are an older person and by yourself. What are you going to do?"
Nearby, the fire fight is on with helicopters hauling buckets of water to drop on the blaze.
The B.C. Wildfire Service is also fighting fire with fire — by using a controlled burn with small hand ignitions to remove the fuel between the community and the fire perimeter. The operation is pushing up more smoke into the sky.
UPDATE: A planned hand-ignition is being conducted on the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/EagleBluff?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#EagleBluff</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BCWildfire?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BCWildfire</a> near the S end of Gallagher Lake. Increased smoke will be visible.<br><br>Note: speed has been reduced in some areas on <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BCHwy97?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BCHwy97</a> & people are encouraged not to stop. More info: <a href="https://t.co/lcp78UXToS">https://t.co/lcp78UXToS</a> <a href="https://t.co/kJpvKlU8vs">pic.twitter.com/kJpvKlU8vs</a>—@BCGovFireInfo
Fire expected to grow
The fire is expected to grow further, which Bonnet says might actually help.
"It doesn't sound like a good thing, but it will actually bring the fire into a more safe and operable terrain for ground crews and for heavy equipment and it will create additional air space for the aircraft that we currently have flying," she added.
Fire crews are not expecting the fire to cross Highway 97, the main north-south route through the Okanagan Valley, Bonnet said.
UPDATE: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/EagleBluff?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#EagleBluff</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BCWildfire?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BCWildfire</a> is ~900 ha. Increase in size is largely due to better mapping yesterday evening, but the fire did see some growth overnight due to the topography of the area. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Evacuation?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Evacuation</a> alert remains in place, for more info on alerts contact <a href="https://twitter.com/EmergMgtRDOS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@EmergMgtRDOS</a> (1/2)—@BCGovFireInfo
Meanwhile, Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for the area as temperatures continue to rise. The heat is expected to continue through Thursday, with cooler weather not expected until Friday.
"We are expecting to see fire activity pick up as we move into the hotter, drier parts of the day," Bonnet added.
An air quality statement has been issued due to the fire. People are being asked to be mindful of smoke exposure.
"People with pre-existing health conditions, the elderly, pregnant women and infants, children, and sensitive individuals are more likely to experience health effects from smoke exposure," reads a statement from Environment Canada.
As of Tuesday night, about 80 firefighters were on the ground, with air support and operational staff.
Bonnet says residents can expect to see more smoke throughout Thursday as crews perform controlled burns around the area to reduce the possibility of the fire spreading down to the valley bottom.
So this thing has doubled in size in 2 hrs. Getting close. View from my deck. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/okfalls?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#okfalls</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Okanaganfalls?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Okanaganfalls</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/eaglebluff?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#eaglebluff</a> <a href="https://t.co/ZpSdseucDV">pic.twitter.com/ZpSdseucDV</a>—@wildwilly580
The fire was first reported late Sunday night and has continued to grow since. The cause of the fire is still under investigation
With files from Clare Hennig, Yvette Brend and Brady Strachan