‘Decent fire activity’ in Saturday forecast for Keremeos Creek blaze

A map showing evacuation alerts in yellow and evacuation orders in red for the Keremeos Creek wildfire that’s burning around 21 kilometres southwest of Penticton. EmergencyInfoBC

The Keremeos Creek wildfire was described as being active on Friday night, a BC Wildfire Service official told Global news on Saturday morning.

Fire information officer Bryan Zandberg said the large blaze seems to be growing northward, albeit slowly, though crews are trying to build containment lines to hold it.

“We’re not expecting heavy winds today like we had the other day, when we saw the big growth,” said Zandberg. “But we are looking at some higher temperatures and lower humidity, so we’re expecting some decent fire activity again on the (fireline) today.”

Read more: Keremeos Creek wildfire: 1,600 properties under evacuation alerts, orders

In its Saturday morning update, BCWS said there were 260 wildland firefighters on scene, along with 166 structural protection personnel from fire departments across B.C., 15 helicopters and 42 pieces of heavy equipment.

“Overnight crews were challenged on the south flank, north of Ollala, with some spotting,” said BCWS.

“They were able to action it and then conduct some hand ignitions to solidify their lines and stalled the fire at the rock bluff north of the village. There has been no fire damage on structures through the overnight period.”

BCWS says its Saturday forecast includes a strong upper ridge, sunny skies and a daily high of around 26 C, along with light winds blowing north to northeast.

The fire’s current size is 5,903 hectares and is one of the largest wildfires in the province.

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“It continues to grow,” Zandberg said of the fire. “We had significant growth the other day towards Olalla, and that really led to the recommendation from the Wildfire Service to evacuate (Olalla). And that’s what happened.”

The biggest blaze in B.C. is burning near the Yukon border, and its latest estimate is 11,067 hectares. That fire is deemed as being held.

Meanwhile, the BCWS says they’re fielding a lot of questions about water bombers, given the rugged terrain in the Okanagan.

Noting that BCWS is “doing a heck of a lot by air,” Zandberg said that “sometimes we get a sense that people think that air bombers are a magic wand. They’re not. They’re just part of our tool kit.”

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He continued, saying, “we have used some air support, some fire retardant drops when things got pretty spicy. That was some days ago now, and that was really in support of some ground crews who were up in some real high places that got pretty hot.”

Zandberg said BCWS does a lot with ground crews and helicopters, “and we keep on adding to our contingent of helicopters that are bucketing the fire.”

Asked about evacuation orders and alerts, Zandberg recommends that affected residents keep close tabs on the RDOS website about potential updates.

“We’re doing our best to not have any more alerts or orders for people,” said Zandberg, adding that some areas where the fire started have cooled significantly. “We’re also trying our best to get people back home as soon as we can.”

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