Wildfire in Okanagan Valley nearly triples in size to 6 sq. km, expected to keep growing
Residents in evacuation alert zone have suitcases packed, ready to go
A wildfire in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley that has residents under an evacuation alert and dealing with air quality warnings is showing no signs of letting up.
The Eagle Bluff wildfire, located between Okanagan Falls and Oliver, has grown to an estimated six square kilometres as of Tuesday night, according to the B.C. Wildfire Service. That's nearly triple the size compared to Monday afternoon, when it was estimated at 2.25 square kilometres.
"It's burning in some pretty steep slopes and rocky terrain, so that's definitely a bit of a challenge [to access]," said Nicole Bonnett, fire information officer for the Kamloops Fire Centre.
"The heat is also a big factor."
With temperatures reaching more than 30 C in some areas, the fuel on the ground is dry and easily ignites.
Environment Canada issued a special weather statement for the Okanagan with the hot spell expected to last until Thursday.
The fire is anticipated to continue to grow as the fire moves upslope away from communities. Growth will bring the fire into more workable & safe terrain for resources on site. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BCWildfire?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BCWildfire</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/EagleBluff?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#EagleBluff</a> More information here: <a href="https://t.co/lcp78UXToS">https://t.co/lcp78UXToS</a> (2/2)—@BCGovFireInfo
The heat also poses a health risk to firefighting crew, who face exhaustion and dehydration, Bonnett said.
"Hotter temperatures are always less favourable when you're fighting fires," she said.
About 80 firefighting crews were on the ground on Tuesday, supported by helicopters and aircraft and operational staff.
The sound of aircraft passing overhead nearly drowned out Bonnet's words as she spoke, with the smoke visible behind her.
Additional resources due to 'quiet' fire season
The fire was first reported late Sunday night and, since then, crews have been on scene responding continuously.
"We've had 24-hour response on this fire since it was reported," Bonnett said.
"It is a little bit of a quiet fire season so far so we do have additional resources available."
The fire is expected to continue growing over the next few days as it moves up the slope and away from communities, according to the B.C. Wildfire Service.
Pearl De Perez, who lives in the evacuation alert zone at Gallagher Lake Village Park, has been watching the flames and firefighting efforts intently.
"We have one suitcase packed with our things in there and personal belongings like passports," she said.
"Within ten minutes probably, we'd be able to be out of here."
De Perez described the community as calm, waiting to see what happens.
"It seems like [fire crews] are doing all they can to keep the fire down," De Perez said.
More than 200 properties are on evacuation alert and Environment Canada has issued a special air quality statement aimed at areas including Penticton, Summerland, Naramata, Keremeos, Oliver and Osoyoos.
With files from Dominika Lirette