VANCOUVER – Crews were literally fighting fire with fire in the South Okanagan as the BC Wildfire Service took advantage of cooler weather to try to contain a blaze that forced hundreds of people from their homes.
Fire Information Officer Marg Drysdale told a news conference on Wednesday that crews were carrying out controlled burns on the southeastern flank of the nearly 28 square kilometer wildfire that was burning to the south -west of Penticton.
Aerial ignition was planned for the area as crews burned trees and bushes not far from Highway 3A, which was briefly closed on Tuesday as the flames moved closer.
“It will be very visible,” Drysdale said of the planned burn to remove trees and bushes to create containment lines around the flames.
Days of scorching heat and low humidity helped fuel the wildfire after it started on July 29, but Drysdale said Wednesday’s winds were “not really a factor” and “pretty flat”, while that the heat was “a few degrees cooler”, at higher altitudes.
Environment Canada predicted a drop in temperatures of nearly 10 degrees in the Penticton area, from lows of 30 recorded on Wednesday to expected highs of no more than 23 C on Thursday and Friday.
The Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District confirmed that 479 properties, including the village of Apex Resort west of Keremeos, remained evacuated, while residents of 324 other properties in the area were on evacuation alert.
Two hundred and fifty-two firefighters have been assigned to the wildfire, Drysdale said, supported by 10 helicopters and four pieces of heavy equipment, with additional heavy equipment expected to be assigned in the coming days.
The South Okanagan blaze is one of six now listed by the wildfire department as either highly visible or a threat to public safety, up from just two so-called ‘notable wildfires’ a day. earlier.
Fires newly identified as “notable fires” include a 10 square kilometer fire northwest of Cache Creek in the Kamloops fire center and another that had burned about two square kilometers northwest of Kamloops.
There are also two in the Southeast Fire Center, one covering nearly 17 square kilometers between Kaslo and New Denver and the other south of Cranbrook, which was started on August 1 and had burned five square kilometers on Wednesday.
The Forest Fire Department warned that activity on this suspected lightning-caused blaze is expected to resume late in the day as winds increase and a cold front moves in.
Conair Group Inc. confirmed by email that one of its planes was involved in a forced landing while battling the wildfire in the Cranbrook area on Tuesday.
“We are pleased to report that after our Fire Boss Airtanker crash-landed yesterday, the pilot was able to exit the aircraft to a suitable helicopter landing site for a return flight to Cranbrook” , said Shannon De Wit, communications manager at Conair.
“Conair is working with the BC Wildfire Service, the Transportation Safety Board and Transport Canada on the investigation,” she said, and continues to provide contracted aerial firefighting services to the fire department. of forest.
The Forest Fire Service said about three-quarters of active wildfires in British Columbia were caused by lightning, while 11% were human-related.
An unoccupied cabin was destroyed southwest of Penticton and many structures were lost at the start of the wildfire west of Lytton, but there are no reports of losses from other fires forest in British Columbia.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 3, 2022.
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