Emergency officials have ordered all residents to evacuate from the B.C. community of Olalla, about 40 kilometres southwest of Penticton, due to the Keremeos Creek wildfire.
The unincorporated town, with a population of more than 400, was put under full evacuation orders Thursday afternoon, affecting roughly 200 properties, around 5 p.m. by the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.
A half-hour later, residents from part of the village of Keremeos, B.C., representing nearly 220 properties, were placed on evacuation alert by municipal and regional authorities,
“This afternoon, the approaching cold front brought much higher winds than we’ve been seeing over the last couple of days, which increased the fire behaviour,” said Mikhail Elsay, a fire information officer with B.C.’s wildfire service. “We felt like we needed to expand the evacuation orders just to protect the communities that are fairly close to the fire.”
The service said on its website that downslope winds above 30 km/h overnight pushed the fire downhill along Highway 3A, toward Olalla to the south, despite crews working throughout the night to keep the fire on the west side of the highway.
The regional district, which has had to evacuate residents from a total of 547 properties so far this wildfire season, said drivers should expect Highway 3A to be closed Thursday evening.
The Keremeos Creek wildfire, at 43 square kilometres in size, had been holding steady over the past day.
Fire crews have attempted to contain it by lighting a series of planned fires near Highway 3A during the week.
There were 62 wildfires burning in the province as of Thursday evening, with the majority of the 156 that started in the past week extinguished.
Most of them are in the Kamloops Fire Centre region, which includes the Okanagan.
Just over half the province’s fires are suspected of having been caused by lightning.