Bear Creek fire is fully contained

Helicopters were bucketing the southern flank of the fire at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, above the Tolko log dump, south of Bear Creek Provincial Park. - Judie Steeves/Capital News
Helicopters were bucketing the southern flank of the fire at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, above the Tolko log dump, south of Bear Creek Provincial Park.
— image credit: Judie Steeves/Capital News

The Regional District of the Central Okanagan announced that the fire was 100 per cent contained at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Firefighters seemingly had control of the wildfire not long after crews started attacking the flames, and within 24 hours displaced area residents and campers were headed back to where they were when it all began.

"With great progress made on fighting the Bear Creek wildfire and supporting weather conditions, on a recommendation from the BC Wildfire Management Branch, effective at 6 p.m. this evening, the Emergency Operation Centre is rescinding the Evacuation Order affecting approximately 550 residents of Traders Cove and Bear Creek Main Forest Service Road and about 100 visitors to Bear Creek Provincial Park," a press released issued Tuesday evening said.

The area however remained on Evacuation Alert and residents were advised to remain prepared to leave their homes with little notice should fire conditions change.

"While the fire in Bear Creek is still actively burning and is not completely contained residents in those areas that have been evacuated may return to their homes. Bear Creek Provincial Park is closed and no new visitors are being allowed in, however; those who were evacuated early this morning may return to gather their belongings and leave the park."

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure partially reopened Westside Road to single lane alternating traffic through the fire area. This will provide access as needed for emergency responders and fire crews.

The Evacuation Alert remains in effect for residents along Westside Road south of Bear Creek Provincial Park and north of Sailview Bay (901 Westside Road).  These people should be prepared to leave their homes on short notice should fire behaviour change requiring an Evacuation Order.

The BC Wildfire Management Branch says the fire remains at 39-hectare size and is 30 per cent contained. So far, no structures have been impacted.

The blaze was reported after 10 p.m. Monday in a steep terrain area above the trail area of Bear Creek Provincial Park. No cause has been determined by Tuesday evening.

The forest fire in the Bear Creek Provincial Park area, adjacent to Westside Road, forced evacuation of 106 homes and 550 people in Traders Cove, Bear Creek Service Road and Bear Creek Provincial Park areas.

A state of emergency was declared by the Regional District of Central Okanagan.

District of West Kelowna, Ministry of Forests and Wilsons Landing Fire Services attended the fire.  The Emergency Operations Centre was been activated.

Westside Road was closed from Sailview Bay in the south to Bear Main Forest Service Road in the north.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, Dale Bojahra said flames came within 400 metres of homes but no buildings had been reported lost.

He said swiring winds Monday night and early Tuesday morning provided challenges for the 40 firefighters battling the blaze.

In addition to ground crews, the forest service was also using helicopters with water buckets to battle the fire, estimated Tuesday morning to be about 38 hectares in size.

The forestry crews were aided by West Kelowna firefighters and volunteers firefighters from Wilson's Landing.

Bojahra said while approximately 30 per cent of the fire has been contained—because of the natural firebreak created by Westside Road—the fire from an overall perspective is still well away from being fully contained and is proving difficult to fight in some of the more remore sections.

By Tuesday afternoon ony about 165 of the estimated 550 evacuees had registered at the emergency support services centre set up in the Lions Community Hall in Westbank, which will stay open to midnight Tuesday.

All evacuees are being urged to register, whether they need help or not.

The ESS is offering three day's food, clothing and accommodation to evacuees.

If residents have to evacuate they should:

· Take an emergency survival kit with you (e.g., battery-operated radio, flashlight, water, food, warm clothing, etc.).

· Make sure you take prescription medicine and identification for the entire family.

· Stay tuned to the media and follow instructions from local emergency officials.

· Shut off water, gas and electricity, but ONLY if instructed to do so.

· Make arrangements for pets.  Local emergency officials will advise you.

· Wear clothes and shoes appropriate to conditions.

· Lock up your home.

· Follow the routes specified by emergency officials.

· Don’t take shortcuts.  A shortcut could take you to a blocked or dangerous area.

· If you have time, leave a note telling others when you left and where you went.

· If you are evacuated, register with the local ESS emergency reception centre (as advised by emergency officials) so you can be contacted or reunited with your family and loved ones.An emergency social services reception centre has been set up at the Westbank Lions Hall at 2466 Main Street. Evacuees are asked to attend the reception centre to register.

The public is asked to:

· Avoid the Westside Road area  so emergency responders can effectively perform their duties

· Stay tuned to the media for further information. Do not call the fire department or other emergency services for information.

· Do not 911 unless it's a life threatening emergency

· Remain calm

· Stay by the phone to receive a call if a family member(s) may have been impacted.

Emergency response crews are responding to the situation and dealing with the priorities of the incident. Public inquiries can be directed to 250-469-8490.

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