British Columbia

Fire crews battle growing Okanagan Valley wildfire overnight

Fire crews continued to battle a wildfire that nearly doubled in size Thursday in the Okanagan Valley.

By Thursday evening, the blaze grew to about 23 square kilometres in size

Hundreds of properties remain on evacuation alert in the southern Okanagan due to the Eagle Bluff fire. (BC Wildfire Service)

Fire crews continued to battle a wildfire that nearly doubled in size Thursday in the Okanagan Valley.

The Eagle Bluff fire, 10 kilometres southeast of Okanagan Falls, B.C., grew from 12.5 square kilometres Wednesday to around 15 square kilometres Thursday morning.

By Thursday evening, it spread to almost 23 square kilometres.

That growth mainly came from a controlled burn conducted by fire crews on the south side of the wildfire.

The B.C. Wildfire Service has deployed about 180 personnel to fight the blaze. Twenty of those will work on the fire overnight Thursday.

The public should not be alarmed by aircraft flying near the fire overnight, the service said.

 

It will deploy a helicopter equipped with night-vision to help detect new fires and get a more accurate mapping of the fire perimeter.

Crews have contained the fire and don't expect it to cross Highway 97, the main north-south route through the Okanagan, said fire information officer Nicole Bonnet.

Officials are warning motorists not to stop on the highway to take photos of the wildfire and say added traffic could threaten people trying to evacuate.

Watch as crews fight the wildfire on Wednesday:

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. 0:56

Hundreds of properties remain 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.

Some locals and visitors appeared unfazed by the wildfire.

Bethany Wiedman and Katarina Lewis were still camping Thursday at the Gallagher Lake Resort campsite, below the rocky terrain where the fire is burning.

The two friends said campers panicked when the fire broke out and the campsite cleared out.

"Everyone was packing up their stuff. But it's fine now," Lewis said, observing the light smoke in the distance.

The view of the fire from the Gallagher Lake Resort campsite, north of Oliver, B.C. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Brenda Hauser and her daughter, Chelsea, said the wildfire wouldn't change their plans to tour wineries that day.

"I'm thankful there's not too many things at risk at the moment," Brenda said. "It's kind of an interesting sight to see."

Jody Wilson said the wildfire hasn't hampered business at her Oliver restaurant, Pappa's Firehall Bistro.

"All the wineries are open. All the businesses are open," she said. "Don't cancel your plans."

With files from Yvette Brend and Brady Strachan