The lottery that is the BC wildfire season struck twice more in the South Okanagan over the weekend, yet again leaving the Osoyoos community untouched but with new calls for vigilance and care.
“While we are surrounded by smoke again, we are lucky in Osoyoos to have a lake and irrigated orchards and vineyards which protects the valley bottom,” said Mayor Sue McKortoff this morning.
“Janette (Van Vianen) is our director of Corporate Services and our EOC director. She has been on daily conference calls for months talking with other directors up the valley, sharing what is happening and concerns for all.”
The latest concerns involve fires north of Summerland, east of Naramata and southwest of Keremeos.
A crew of seven firefighters and operators with heavy equipment worked overnight in an effort to contain a 1,500-hectare blaze between Summerland and Peachland. Yesterday, air tankers joined the effort, collecting water from Okanagan Lake and dropping it in the hills above Hwy. 97.
More than 20 firefighters are engaged in fighting the blaze. Three helicopters are also on site.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
The wildfire, visible from Hwy. 97 between the two communities, is burning in steep terrain. It was discovered Sunday morning and has since forced the evacuation of 55 properties.
“Largely this fire activity and rate of spread is due to how dry the fuels are within this area of the Okanagan,” the BC Wildfire Service says in an evening report. “There has not been significant rainfall in the Finlay Creek area in over two months.”
That lack of rainfall, combined with continuing hot, dry conditions, has resulted in several other wildfires in the South Okanagan-Similkameen.
Southwest of Keremeos, the Diamond Creek fire has grown to 4,525 hectares and is being allowed to burn in the Ashnola Valley. It was discovered on July 23 in the Pasayten Wilderness of Washington state, approximately 10 km south of the Canada/U.S. border.
Since the first week of the fire, the BC Wildfire Service has been in regular communication with U.S. firefighting officials but has limited action to to flying over the area twice a day by helicopter to map the fire, determine whether growth has occurred and develop a strategy and tactics in the event the fire threatens any structures, stands of timber and other resources.
BC parks has closed Cathedral Provincial Park.
U.S. officials indicate the wildfire was human-caused.
Another crew is busy fighting a smaller wildfire on Greyback Mountain east of Naramata. The 30-hectare blaze was reported Monday morning and is suspected to be human-caused.
Seventeen crew members from the BC Wildfire Service, supported by helicopters and air tankers are fighting the fire. Although there are structures in the area, none are so far threatened by the blaze.
Meanwhile, a 3,300-hectare blaze continues to burn north of Princeton near Hwy. 5, although it is contained and is no longer considered a threat to property or life.
More than 130 wildfires are currently burning within the Kamloops Fire Centre.
Mayor McKortoff said a concerted local effort is keeping wildfire at bay in the Osoyoos community.
“Working together is the best way to deal with these volatile issues,” she said, adding spring flooding to the emergencies her community has dealt with this year.
“Our fire department, RCMP, bylaw officers and town staff have been involved and are well prepared to work together to protect all of us. The local fires have been handled efficiently and quickly.”
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