An evacuation alert for more than 700 properties remains in place as a result of a large wildfire burning near Okanagan Falls in the South Okanagan.
The 5,000 hectare Thomas Creek wildfire, which is still classified as out-of-control, is burning about 1.5 kilometres east of Skaha Lake.
“It’s a big fire,” Okanagan Falls fire chief Fred Dobransky told Global News Thursday morning. “It’s a good-sized fire.”
And while winds and the hot and dry conditions are fueling the blaze, Dobransky said there is no immediate threat to the community, at least not for now.
The fire is moving in a southeast direction, going south out in the back country,” He said. “Okanagan Falls. I would say is basically safe. We don’t have to worry about any structures being compromised from the fire.”
But with any wildfire, Dobransky said that could change.
“Anything can change,” he said. I mean the winds could change direction the next day or so. Anything could happen.”
Residents in surrounding communities, some as far away as Beaverdell, have reported a lot of ash falling from the sky due to the fire.
The B.C Wildfire Service had 30 personnel, six helicopters and heavy equipment at the scene Wednesday.
Ground crews concentrated on the area of the fire closest to homes, on the fire’s west and southwest flanks.
“They are being assisted by heavy equipment to establish and reinforce fires guards as well as utilize planned ignitions between the fireguard and the fire perimeter to help eliminate available fuels,” said fire information officer Aydan Coray.
The Regional District of Okanagan Simlkameen has told residents of the 700-plus properties they should be ready to leave on short notice.
Resident Roger Love was among those closely watching as helicopters buzzed overhead bucketing water on the blaze.
“It’s just ongoing. Being a local resident there is never enough but, I mean, there is fires burning all across British Columbia…I truly believe they are doing their best,” Love said.
Coray said the BC Wildfire Service has almost all of its resources on standby or being utilized.
“At this time, especially with all the new fire starts, we are prioritizing our resources as necessary to have an efficient response to fires,” Coray said.
Near the Thomas Creek fire, some already feel the worst is likely behind them.
Rancher Brian Thomas said the blaze started on Crown land next to his ranch Sunday afternoon.
Thomas said he had a piece of heavy equipment on-site and started building fireguards.
“Forestry showed up and the OK Falls volunteer fire department showed up…we got it so it wasn’t headed towards the barns and everything and then it just went up the hill and just carried on,” said Thomas.
“That was a very close call because the wind was blowing.”
Days later, with the fire front further away, Thomas said he now feels pretty safe despite the ongoing alert.
Residents are hoping winds will remain favourable and continue to blow the blaze away from their homes.
Officials have also implemented an area restriction for the area around the Thomas Creek Wildfire in the interest of public safety while fire suppression activities continue.
Anyone entering the area for an unauthorized purpose could be subject to an $1,150 fine.
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