Penticton Herald staff
Special to OsoyoosToday
An incident management team arrived Sunday to help get control of a 15-square-kilometre wildfire near Princeton.
Meanwhile, a mandatory Evacuation Order was added Sunday evening for an additional 46 homes on 43 properties north of Princeton. The homes are located along Highway 5A south of the junction with Summers Creek Rd.
The blaze about 10 kilometres north of the community was discovered Friday and promptly chased people from 60 properties on Highway 5A and Summers Creek Road.
Another 195 homes, located on Highway 5A between Summers Creek Road and Dry Lake and Summer Creek Road to Missezula Lake, were later evacuated.
The total number of homes evacuated due to the fire is 301.
Another 233 properties remain on advisory Evacuation Alert along Princeton-Summerland Rd south of Chain Lake, including Hembrie Moutain Rd, Pinewood Dr and Siwash Rd.
These areas are locally called Jura, Erris and Jellicoe. None of the properties in these areas are being evacuated at this time but remain on advisory Evacuation Alert.
The fire has affected the South Okanagan with smoke of varying intensity lingering in the valley. The Interior Health Authority is encouraging residents and visitors to avoid strenuous outdoor activity, especially this with known lung and heart conditions.
The RDOS noted many homes on Missezula Lake are summer cabins and may be unoccupied. Regardless, owners are asked to call 250-293-6672 to let officials know they’re safe.
As of Sunday afternoon, 106 members of the first wave of evacuees had registered at an emergency support services reception centre in Princeton and were being provided shelter and other necessities, according to the RDOS.
At the same time, the fire was pegged at 1,500 hectares in size, unchanged since Saturday, but still considered out of control by the BC Wildfire Service.
Fifty firefighters, helicopters and heavy equipment were all being brought to bear on the blaze.
“The crews are continuing to build machine guards and lay hose lines. That’s their primary focus,” said BC Wildfire Service spokeswoman Tracy Wynnyk.
They’re also now under the command of the incident management team, which is used “to co-ordinate strategies for fire operations,” she explained.
Smaller fires are typically handled by zone offices throughout the Kamloops Fire Centre, but when “a situation expands beyond the capacity of a local zone, then it goes up to another level” to a dedicated management team, Wynnyk continued.
As crews did battle in Princeton over the weekend, emergency officials rescinded an evacuation alert for 186 properties in Kaleden, which lost one home last week in a 6.5-hectare blaze.
“While the evacuation alert is being rescinded, there will still be crews dealing with hot spots within the containment zone,” the RDOS noted in a press release.
“Residents are asked to call 911 if they see any smoke or fire activity.”
Meanwhile, every local government in the region — including the RDOS and Town of Osoyoos — has imposed a temporary fire ban to help cut the risk of new wildfires starting. The ban includes campfires and fireworks.
The ban does not cover cooking stoves fuelled by gas or charcoal, provided the flame height does not exceed 15 centimetres.