Extensive smoke and heat challenges fast-moving OK Falls wildfire

As the Thomas Creek wildfire continues to grow, an evacuation order has been issued for 77 homes, and 600 on alert near Okanagan Falls. (Meghann Fletcher photo)As the Thomas Creek wildfire continues to grow, an evacuation order has been issued for 77 homes, and 600 on alert near Okanagan Falls. (Meghann Fletcher photo)
This is a close up of the raging wildfire firefighters are battling Sunday night at the Thomas Creek wildfire. (Meghann Fletcher photo)This is a close up of the raging wildfire firefighters are battling Sunday night at the Thomas Creek wildfire. (Meghann Fletcher photo)
Meghann Fletcher photoMeghann Fletcher photo

Update: 1:15 p.m.

BC Wildfire crews had a ‘very successful night’ getting rid of fuels and creating containment lines on the out-of-control Thomson Creek blaze above Okanagan Falls.

With little wind, the estimated 500-hectare interface fire saw no growth overnight, said BC Wildfire Services Kim Janowsky.

“The fire is moving in a southeastern direction away from homes,” said Janowsky in a live briefing at the RDOS office.

No homes have been damaged in this fire, he said.

There is currently 33 personnel working on the fire that is 1.5 km east of Skaha Lake. There are also three helicopters, skimmers and air tankers that were laying a lot of retardant on Sunday, which helped set up a good containment line, he said.

This fire is burning at a five out of six ranking.

“We have helicopters that will be bucketing and skimmers back on Skaha Lake for the next couple of days. We need boaters to understand that skimmers need a lot of room to work. You compromise our fire suppression efforts when you come too close,” warned Janowsky.

RDOS is looking at ways of alerting boaters to stay out of the area. The town of Coldstream has closed its boat launches to allow skimmers full access to the water.

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There are still 77 homes on evacuation order and 627 properties on evacuation alert but no structures are in direct threat of the fast-moving Thomas Creek wildfire as of Monday morning.

During a live briefing, Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen chair Karla Kozakevich said that extensive smoke is making it difficult for BC Wildfire Service personnel both on the ground and in the air.

“This is a fast-moving out of control interface wildfire,” said Kozakevich Monday morning. “There is a smoke and heat advisory so expect more fire activity today.”

The RDOS will be providing another live briefing update at noon.

Because of the extensive smoke in the area, BC Wildfire is having trouble establishing the size of the fire this morning.

Last night it was listed as more than 500 hectares.

They are expecting the fire to grow today.

“These are challenging conditions. We do expect an update from BC Wildfire soon,” said RDOS CEO Bill Newell.

He also asked that people stay away from the area, especially Eastside Road.

The Okanagan Falls landfill is closed until further notice.

Newell also advised that people contact their insurance company so they know what their coverage is.

He also advised that residents on the evacuation alert still register with the Emergency Operations Centre.

If you have any questions, there is a call centre available to help at 250-490-4225.

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Update: Monday, 8:30 a.m.

Around 9 p.m. Sunday, the RDOS Emergency Operations Centre declared a local state of emergency for the fire above Okanagan Falls.

They were expected to give residents a live briefing on YouTube but had technical difficulties and postponed it until sometime today.

There are 77 homes on evacuation order and over 600 homes on evacuation alert this morning.

Locals and ALERT were helping evacuate livestock yesterday as well. Even Twin Lake residents were offering to take in horses.

BC Wildfire Services has deemed the Thomas Creek wildfire a ‘fire of note’ which means it is one of the significant fires burning in the province.

The blaze, believed to be human-caused, started just after 2 p.m. in the McLean Creek Road area, just 1.5 kilometres east of Skaha Lake. At 2:30 p.m., it was listed at .50 ha. By 4 p.m. it had exploded to over 100 ha.

BC Wildfire Services said they had eight firefighters and multiple heavy equipment working through the night.

Skimmer planes used Skaha Lake to pick up water to douse the flames, working tirelessly through the day. Boaters were an issue for the skimmer planes.

Okanagan Falls Volunteer firefighters also aided wildfire crews on Sunday.

The Penticton Western News will update this story as soon as RDOS provides a time for their briefing.

Those under the evacuation order should do the following:

If you require services, please visit the ESS Reception Centre at 199 Ellis Street, Penticton.

For ESS information, please call: 250-486-1890.

If you have pets or livestock that need to be cared for and billeted, please contact Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team (ALERT) for support: 250-809-7152.

READ MORE: Local state of emergency for OK Falls fire

PHOTOS: OK Falls wildfire explodes over 100 ha

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


 

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B.C. Wildfires 2021