The Keremeos Creek wildfire southwest of Penticton, B.C., grew overnight and jumped a road, with dozens of properties on evacuation order after it started Friday.
It is among a large number of fires that were sparked across the province after a week of extreme temperatures. Of B.C.’s 70 active wildfires, 43 were started in the last two days.
The wildfire near Penticton is now burning across an area of 1.5 square kilometres, up 50 per cent from Friday night. Most of the growth was seen after the fire jumped east across Green Mountain Road, according to the B.C. Wildfire Service.
Residents of 21 properties near Green Mountain Road were ordered to leave by the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, with a further 25 on evacuation alert as of 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
“We are going to continue to see hot and dry conditions throughout the next few days as this wildfire unfolds,” said Aydan Coray, a fire information officer. “While the fuels have been dry, they will continue to dry out as we see [relative humidity] decrease even further, and the hot and dry weather continues.”
Coray said it is difficult to forecast where the fire will grow, and whether it will move toward Penticton, given how volatile the situation is. She said structure protection officers remain on the scene.
The cause of the fire hasn’t yet been determined. It’s currently burning 21 km southwest of the town of Penticton, which is located in B.C.’s southern Interior, near the U.S. border.
Fire near Lytton continues to burn
The Keremeos Creek wildfire is the second “fire of note” in B.C., which means it is particularly visible or poses a threat to public safety.
The first one of the season, the Nohomin Creek fire northwest of Lytton, continues to burn over an area of 29.1 square kilometres after it started on July 14. Lytton was all but destroyed by a raging wildfire a little over a year ago.
The Nohomin Creek fire has resulted in nearly 100 people being ordered to leave their homes, and at least 10 structures being destroyed. Some of the evacuation orders issued by local authorities have been downgraded, but many remain in place as of Saturday.
Karley Desrosiers, a fire information officer, said significant growth isn’t anticipated for the fire due to suppression efforts, but fire activity is still being seen in the northwest flank of the blaze.
“We are seeing an expected decrease in the humidity today [Saturday] compared to yesterday,” she said. “That will likely influence fire behaviour and it might be burning more active than yesterday, but that’s not unexpected.”
The fire has also resulted in the closure of the nearby Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Heritage Park. Without a sustained cooling trend, Desrosiers says the fire is likely to continue burning.
“I would say the biggest challenge at the moment, here and elsewhere, is the heat,” she said.
Thousands of lightning strikes
According to the wildfire service, the province saw nearly 4,000 lightning strikes over the last two days, a majority of which were in the Interior.
Currently, 45 per cent of B.C.’s wildfires this season were started by lightning, with 48 per cent due to human activity. Most of the province is at a “high” fire danger rating as of Saturday.
The province of B.C. was struck by lightning 3,995 times from the lightning storms yesterday and last night. The majority (close to 2,500) were in the Kamloops Fire Centre, with the remainder in the Prince George, Southeast and Cariboo Fire Centres. <a href=”https://t.co/MtMXBMIM7i”>pic.twitter.com/MtMXBMIM7i</a>
While open fire bans are in place throughout the province, small campfires are still permitted, which means keeping fires under half a metre high and wide, and keeping water or a tool close by to keep them under control.
Fire information officer Jean Strong said Friday it is unusual to not have a campfire ban in place this late into the summer. Fire centres are monitoring the situation closely, Strong said, and a ban could be put in place if conditions change in the coming weeks.