Evacuation orders and alerts have been issued in parts of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley after a cluster of wildfires broke out following a fierce lightning storm that swept across the southern Interior.
BC Wildfire Service spokesman Kevin Skrepnek said Thursday that a blaze burning four kilometres south of Peachland on the west side of Okanagan Lake was one of the most serious, but it was not the only active fire.
“We’ve got a cluster of fires that is of concern right now in the south Okanagan corridor from Kelowna south,” he said in an interview.
The so-called Mount Eneas fire prompted evacuation orders in the regional districts of Central Okanagan and Okanagan-Similkameen, with residents, campers and visitors directed to reception centres in West Kelowna and Penticton.
The latest evacuation order issued late Thursday due to the Mount Eneas blaze affected several properties in the District of Summerland while some 90 other properties were placed on an evacuation alert.
Okanagan Lake Provincial Park was one of several campsites and nine properties evacuated late Wednesday as the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen declared a state of local emergency.
Flames from the Mount Eneas fire also jumped Highway 97 on Wednesday, Skrepnek said, so RCMP and Ministry of Transportation crews were leading drivers by pilot vehicles along that smoky stretch of road after it reopened Thursday.
A second fire, identified by Skrepnek as the Peachland Creek blaze, led to the evacuation of 34 properties early Thursday just north of Summerland, and those residents were urged to register at the reception centre in Penticton.
Across Okanagan Lake, an evacuation alert was posted for a third wildfire estimated at more than two-square kilometres, burning in Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park just outside the southern limits of the City of Kelowna.
About a dozen fires had been sparked in the Okanagan corridor in a 24-hour period, Skrepnek said, making the Kamloops Fire Centre, which oversees the region, the busiest of the provincial fire centres.
“We are moving resources in from elsewhere in the province, from quieter areas where we can free up resources,” he said, adding that additional helicopters and fixed-wing, water-skimming air tankers were also en route.
Firefighters loaned this month to Ontario and Quebec will also be brought home sooner than expected, he said.
“It’s not going to be an immediate recall, but definitely the plan is to bring them back earlier than planned and then cycle them in so they can start to relieve some of the crews we’ve got deployed in B.C. now.”
The wildfire service reports 77 new fires had been sparked across the province over a 48 hour period, including the 1.5-square kilometre blaze northwest of Vanderhoof that has resulted an evacuation alert.
Cooler weather was giving crews a slight reprieve, Skrepnek said, but conditions remain unsettled, with the potential for more lightning and a forecast that called for a return to high temperatures by the weekend.