Expanded Evacuation Orders Issued in BC Interior as Wildfire Rapidly Spreads

Expanded Evacuation Orders Issued in BC Interior as Wildfire Rapidly Spreads
An aerial view of the Keremeos Creek wildfire near the Okanagan area in British Columbia on July 29, 2022. (Photo by BC Wildfire Service).
Peter Wilson
An evacuation order has been expanded in British Columbia after a wildfire near the province’s southern border has more than quadrupled in size since the weekend, says the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS).
The Keremeos Creek Wildfire, located about 20 kilometres southwest of Penticton, was burning a surface area of just over four kilometres on July 31, but has since grown dramatically to cover almost 28 kilometres on Aug. 2, the BCWS said in an update.

Bryan Zandberg, BCWS’s information officer, said in an update on Aug. 1 that the wildfire is burning unpredictably and growing aggressively.

“We are in desert country here,” Zandberg said. “So there are well−cured fuels for the fire to get into. We do have localized weather conditions such as winds that will push the fire, not in an organized way.”

He stressed that the fire is “vigorous” and “expanding outwards.”

On Aug. 1, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) increased its evacuation area to include the Apex Mountain Village, a resort located about six kilometres from the wildfire’s perimeter. The Lower Similkameen Indian Band also issued an evacuation notice covering an area of about 25 kilometres, from Highway 3A in the south to Apex Mountain Road in the north.
The RDOS’s order includes over 200 new addresses listed for immediate evacuation. It said members of the RCMP “and other agencies” will be assisting residents in vacating the area as quickly as possible.

The wildfire has already led to the evacuation of over 300 properties in the area, and the total number of properties on evacuation alert is now over 400.

The BCWS said that quelling the fire has proven a difficult task as heavy levels of smoke have hindered visibility for estimating its size and for flying over the blaze with extinguishing materials.

“[On Aug. 1], airtankers were able to do two passes with retardant but were unable to continue due to crosswinds,” it said in an online update. “The fire has moved downslope closer to Highway 3A at the south end of Yellow Lake, and a control line is progressing along the highway.”

The BCWS also said it will carry out “planned ignitions” on the fire’s eastern side within the next 24 hours. The agency has deployed over 110 firefighters to the area along with an equal number of “structural protection personnel” from various B.C. firefighting departments.

The BCWS is still investigating the cause of the fire.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.