Similkameen fires west of Osoyoos still out of control

A “small amount of precipitation” received in the BC Interior Saturday and Sunday is expected to help firefighters deal with a pair of wildfires burning in the Similkameen.

It’s also helping to relieve smoky conditions in and around Osoyoos.

Nevertheless, both the Cool Creek and Old Tom fires ballooned in size over the weekend.

The Cool Creek fire, which originated Aug. 15 about 20 km northeast of Eastgate in Manning Park, was pegged at more than 17,400 hectares as of late Sunday evening, up from 6,900 hectares on Friday.

Its growth triggered an evacuation order Friday for Cathedral Lakes Lodge as it burned to the edge of the Placer Mountain fire, which scorched 2,400 hectares in July and is now providing a containment line for Cool Creek.

There are a small number of recreational properties at risk but no full-time residences.

Both fires are considered out of control.

 

BC Wildfire Service spokesman Steve Kada said Sunday the increased size of the two blazes was due to a combination of growth on the ground, fuelled by heavy winds late last week, and better mapping as a result of improved visibility from the air.

The service had 40 personnel, 14 pieces of heavy equipment and air support at Cool Creek on Sunday, and another 115 personnel, 14 pieces of heavy equipment and air support at Old Tom Creek.

Steep terrain is making work on both fires difficult, posing a safety risk to firefighting personnel.

A third wildfire of note in the Similkameen, where approximately 1,000 properties remain on evacuation alert, is Snowy Mountain near Keremeos, which is being held at 13,400 hectares.

The fires were responsible for “periods of elevated concentrations of fine particulate matter and poor air quality through the weekend,” suggests a bulletin from The Weather Network.

“However increased dispersion from winds aloft combined with showers over the coming days will lead to incremental improvement for some regions.”

That appears to include the South Okanagan. A smoke forecast modelled by BlueSky Canada is predicting smoke from BC’s Southern Interior fires will blow south into the western states.

— With files from Penticton Herald

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