Special to OsoyoosToday
A forest fire between Summerland and Peachland jumped Hwy. 97, closing down the major roadway in both directions, late Wednesday afternoon.
Many residents from the South and Central Okanagan, who live in one community but work in the other, were forced to add a lengthy detour to their commute or stay overnight.
The highway was reported to be “passable” overnight. DriveBC is reporting the highway is open this morning.
Meanwhile, the Mount Conkle fire, near Summerland, has grown to around 50 hectares, said BC Wildfire Service, who were battling the blaze both on the ground and in the air, Wednesday.
There were 42 personnel, three helicopters, heavy equipment and air tankers trying to stop that wildfire which began around 7 p.m. on Tuesday night.
But, no structures are being threatened at this time, BC Wildfire Service confirmed. The fire is on Penticton Indian Band land. No PIB has said 13 homes are on evacuation alert.
Lightning was the cause of some 13 wildfires in the Okanagan and Similkameen region, with four spot fires in Naramata, one which was dangerously close to a house.
According to Naramata fire chief Tony Trovao, as of Wednesday morning, they still had a crew of five monitoring and mopping up at the fire in the 6000 block of North Naramata Road.
A second fire, near the Rock Ovens above the KVR Trail, is mostly out, but BC Wildfire Service is keeping an eye on it, Trovao said. A third spot fire is inaccessible for fire crews and BC Wildfire Service is watching it.
“The fire on North Naramata Road came within 30 feet of a home and 10 feet of the person’s garage. We dug in and hammered it, but it was worrisome for a bit there. The owners lost an old pick-up truck parked at their home,” he said.
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkemeem chairwoman Karla Kozakevich was in the middle of a public hearing when her cellphone began to light up Tuesday evening.
“I actually had to stop the meeting because I knew it was something serious,” she said.
Kozakevich said that so many people were calling to report fires, they were getting a busy signal when dialing 911.
Tuesday marked the first day of significant wildfire in the region. Last summer was the worst in recorded history for wildfire in B.C.
If you see new wildfire activity that you believe has not yet been reported call: 1-800-663-5555 or text *5555.