Smoke from the current forest fire on Hwy 33 is visible from West Kelowna.

UPDATE: Fire 50% contained; no structures lost

Evacuation orders still in effect, say emergency personnel, although Highway 33 has reopened

  • Sat Jul 4th, 2015 5:00am
  • News

A media conference was held at 1:00pm Saturday, offering an update on the Highway 33 fire.

Bruce Smith, Regional District of Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre Information Officer, said 142 properties have been evacuated, and 158 are on evacuation alert. 200 people are registered with emergency support services due to being evacuated, and there have been no injuries due to the fire.

Joe Rich Fire Department Assistant Chief Ben Wasyliuk noted the fire is about 50% contained, with the south and west sides under control.  He added the focus right now is on the north and east sides of the fire, where guard lines are holding but the fire is at its most active.

Fire crews from Joe Rich, Kelowna, Lake Country, Ellison and Big White are focusing on protecting structures.  Although the fire is within 200m of some homes on Huckleberry Road and within 50m of structures on Highway 33, emergency personnel said they can confirm no structures have been destroyed.

As for the safety of domestic animals in the area, Wasyliuk said no harm has come to any as far as he is aware.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, however BC Wildfire Service Incident Commander Dale Bojahra noted it is safe to say it was human caused.  Smith added they have no timetable for issuing updates on evacuations as they could come at any time as they monitor the fire.

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The Emergency Operation Centre advises that in conjunction with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Highway 33 is open once again to single-lane alternating traffic through the Joe Rich Grassfire fire zone.

Motorists are advised that the speed limit through this area is reduced and they should watch for and yield to any emergency vehicles.  Current highway information can be viewed at the DriveBC website,www.drivebc.ca.

RCMP and traffic control have road blocks in place at Goudie Road and Cardinal Creek Road to prevent access into the area which remains under Evacuation Order, affecting approximately 142 properties.  Local traffic only is being allowed into properties within the areas on Evacuation Alert along Cardinal Creek and Sun Valley Roads.

All Evacuation Orders and Alerts remain in effect.  A detailed map with the latest Evacuation Order and Alert areas showing affected roads and addresses can be viewed online at www.cordemergency.ca.

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BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) Fire Information Officer Kayla Pepper said BCWS is continuing to assist local firefighters with the wildfire Saturday morning.

BCWS is providing 60 firefighters in total, with 21 working overnight and the rest on Saturday.  There are also two helicopters assisting, and air tankers can be called back if necessary after they were quite effective Friday.

Pepper was unable to say what percentage of the fire is contained at this time, but retardant was dropped around 75% of the fire and a fair amount of progress was made with establishing a fire guard overnight.

The fire did not grow overnight, and remains around 80 hectares in size.

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While good progress has been made in fighting the estimated 80-hectare Joe Rich Grassfire, the Emergency Operation Centre advises that all Evacuation Orders and Alerts remain in effect.

The fire is still actively being fought.  Structural fire fighters from the Joe Rich, Ellison and Big White fire departments are working on the fire this morning with crews from the BC Wildfire Service which is providing both ground and air support.

A detailed map with the latest Evacuation Order and Alert areas showing affected roads and addresses can be viewed online at www.cordemergency.ca.

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Fire fighters monitoring the Joe Rich Grassfire report a good night on the fire which is estimated at approximately 80-hectares in size. About 14 structural fire fighters from Joe Rich Fire/Rescue and the Big White Fire department along with 20 personnel from the BC Wildfire Service snuffed out some minor flare-ups and knocked down some hot spots found during overnight patrols. They say the guards and retardant lines that have been established are holding. Over the next few hours the Unified Command including the BC Wildfire Service and local structural fire departments will be determining today’s plan of action in the continuing effort to increase containment and determine any possible change in the status of Evacuation Orders and Alerts. All Evacuation Orders and Alerts remain in effect.