In just 24 hours, 115 new wildfires have flared up across B.C. — most of them in the Kamloops area and the southeast part of the province.
“Lightning was a huge driver of increased fire activity yesterday and that would be from the lightning activity we saw Sunday night,” said Ryan Turcot of the B.C. Wildfire Service.
Nine communities are under evacuation alerts or orders, according to the wildfire service.
Kelsey Winter, also with B.C. Wildfire Service, said crews are monitoring erratic winds expected to hit the region later today.
“[We’re] making sure we get as many resources as we can today, before the winds pick up, and try to get some containment on those fires,” said Winter.
West Kelowna fire still growing
A fast-moving wildfire on Westside Road near West Kelowna’s Shelter Cove area has now grown to about 430 hectares, up from 175 hectares earlier today and 30 hectares yesterday.
Most of the growth has been uphill, away from nearby homes, but the fire has remained difficult to contain on a steep slope, with high winds and a lot of dry fuel.
“Wind is our number 1 enemy out here,” fire information officer Dale Bojara said Tuesday afternoon.
An evacuation order is still in place for approximately 70 properties andnearly 1,400 homes are out of power because of the fire.
Duncan Robinson, who watched the fire from his home across Okanagan Lake, said it intensified as the wind picked up.
“As soon as you felt the wind gust, you would just see huge candling, trees just flaring up,” said Robinson.
“I can’t even guess how high those flames would have been in the air but definitely quite a show on this side.”
Bruce Smith with the Central Okanagan Regional District’s Emergency Operations Centre said the fire has not destroyed any structures.
“We know that the structural fire crews from Wilson’s landing in northwest side were very busy last night protecting those properties along Westside Road,” said Smith.
An evacuation centre has been set up at the Westside Lions Community Hall and opened this morning at 8:30 a.m. PT
The emergency centre will help evacuees with food, clothing and lodging.
Smith said crews are also asking boaters to stay out of the area so air crews can gather water to dump on the fire.
Fire grew quickly
Earlier on Monday, the fire was only four hectares, but it grew quickly as strong winds fanned ground that was smouldering from a lightning strike the night before.
On Monday evening, RCMP officers went door to door telling people to leave. Winds pushed the fire toward Westside Road and the homes below it, and much of the hillside was quickly in flames.
Bolean Lake Resort evacuated
Strong winds are also causing challenging conditions for another wildfire in the Kamloops area, just five kilometres northwest of Falkland, B.C.
As of Monday night, the Bolean Lake wildfire had grown to about 300 hectares and was not at all contained. The B.C. Wildfire Service said the fire was most likely caused by lightning.
The Columbia Shuswap Regional District has issued an evacuation order for the Bolean Lake Resort, and an evacuation alert for other 24 properties.
Evacuation orders require residents to leave immediately, while evacuation alerts require residents to leave at a moment’s notice if conditions change.
Rene Talbot, Columbia Shuswap Regional District director, said the smoke is a reminder of just how close the fire is.
Hot, dry conditions
Also in the Kamloops area, 15 kilometres southeast of Ashcroft, a 250-hectare wildfire has prompted an evacuation alert for 28 properties.
Kelsey Winter,of the B.C. Wildfire Service, said the fire remains uncontained, despite the efforts of 63 firefighters, six air tankers and a helicopter.
“Tankers and helicopters were unable to action yesterday due to the wind. Today we’re hoping to have air support on that fire as well,” said Winter.
The fire is burning north of Highway 97C and was discovered yesterday morning.