Rock Creek fire rages; Situation volatile and frightening says RDKB chair

Fire rages in Rock Creek area; regional district issues evacuation order to 240 properties

UPDATE: BC Wildfire Service, Saturday, – Aug 15 – noon

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Besides Rock Creek, five more wildfires of note are listed in B.C.

* Long Lake, West of Stump Lake, a 235 hectare fire is reported to be 60 per cent contained.

Ground crews are being supported by three helicopters, heavy equipment and three air tankers.  Smoke visible from Highway 5A (south of Kamloops) and communities around Stump Lake.

* Sidley Mountain, east of Osoyoos, and active 50 hectare wildfire reported to be 100 per cent contained.

The majority of this fire is in Washington State, though reported to have spread across the border east of Osoyoos, prompting an evacuation order which has since been downgraded to an evacuation alert.

* Skuhun Creek, north of Merritt between Highway 8 and Highway 97C.

Fast-moving wildfire estimated to be 300 hectares, reported to be 70 per cent contained.

Suspected to be human caused.

* Testalinden Creek, a seven kilometres south of Oliver remains active and zero percent contained. Estimated to be 1,300 hectares.

Over 200 homes are under an evacuation order due to the threat of two wildfires. One is burning in the Wilson Mountain area, north of Oliver, the other in Testalinden Creek, south of Oliver.

* Wilson’s Mountain Road, one kilometer north of Oliver, the wildfire is reported to be active, about 200 hectares and zero per cent contained.

An evacuation order is in effect.

 

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UPDATE: Saturday, Aug 15 –  11 a.m.

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The Southeast Fire Centre issued an update about the Rock Creek fire Saturday morning.

The cause of the 2,500 hectare wildfire remains under investigation but is suspected to be human-caused.

All human-caused wildfires are preventable and unnecessarily divert firefighting resources from naturally occurring fires. The Southeast Fire Centre urges the public to be cautious in the backcountry and refrain from any activities that may cause a wildfire.

The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary issued an evacuation order to 330 homes in the area and sections of Highway 3 and Highway 33 remain closed due to the incident.

The fire is not contained and extremely dangerous, so anyone entering the area is putting themselves at risk as well as the firefighters at risk.

Safe fire suppression efforts rely on support and understanding of the public. Entering the evacuation area can delay firefighting activities and contribute to the growth of the fire and increases risk to people and property.

Eighty firefighters are currently on site, assisted by air tankers, seven helicopters and heavy equipment.

Additional personnel is en route.

Forecasts are calling for thunderstorms and significant wind gusts throughout the region this weekend, which may increase fire behavior and growth.

The centre is also reporting smoke from a large wildfire in Washington state is visible near Grand Forks, with crews on standby for fire suppression if and when needed. For more information on fire activity south of the border, visit inciweb.nwcg.gov.

For the latest information on current wildfire activity, burning restrictions, roads closures and air quality advisories, visit bcwildfire.ca.

 

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FRIDAY, August 14, 11 a.m.

A rapidly growing fire near Rock Creek has forced over 200 people from their homes since it began burning Thursday afternoon.

Evacuation orders from the regional district were issued to 240 properties later in the evening and by noon Friday, Highway 3 and Highway 33 remained closed to all traffic.

The situation is dire in the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) as the wildfire spread more than 2,000 hectares over night and remains zero per cent contained.

Grace McGregor saw first hand how quick and devastating a wildfire of this magnitude can be.

The RDKB board chair and Director for Area C was camping in the Christian Valley when the fire broke and shortly after, headed back home to Christina Lake

“We tried to get home yesterday when the fire started up and we got as far as Westbridge,” she told the Trail Times Friday morning. “We were sitting at Westbridge watching that horrible smoke and it was so frightening. I just feel for everybody involved in this.”

Fires are burning throughout the region, she said in a shaky voice. “It’s really volatile right now, and I just hope everybody stays close to home and stays as safe as they can right now.”

Other than a power outage in Beaverdell, factual details about the condition of properties in the Rock Creek area are unknown.

“No one can get in there and see anything because the fire is still burning,” McGregor added. “The regional district will be putting out specifics as soon as they have more information  – and as soon as they have the truth of what’s happened.”

McGregor shared that communities have quickly rallied to assist the region district.

“There has been very helpful people,” she said, mentioning groups from Greenwood, Midway, the Boundary Similkameen and many others. “Fire departments from all over the place have offered every kind of help they could.”

Temporary shelters have been set up at the Midway Community Hall, the Kelowna Salvation Army and the Whiteville Community Centre in Lumby, for Christian Valley evacuees.

The Midway reception centre reports 225 non-Rock Creek residents and 69 Rock Creek residents have been received since Thursday.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said McGregor, referring to the region’s Drought 4 rating and the Kettle River’s low water level. “We were up there and saw there is hardly anything coming out of any of the tributaries. People are really going to need to pay attention to what’s happening this year.”

Despite continued efforts of air tankers and ground crews, the dry climate, high temperatures and wind gusts grew the wildfire to its current size, confirmed Fire Information Officer Fanny Bernard.

Thirty-six firefighters worked alongside the Midway Fire Department before 40 additional BC Wildfire Service personnel arrived on scene late Thursday evening.

The cause of the fire is not known and is under investigation.

For the latest information on current wildfire activity, visit bcwildfire.ca.

To follow RDKB Emergency Operations, visit twitter.com/AlanLStanley.

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