The Christie Mountain fire is on the left on Aug. 19, 2020 and the Thomas Creek Fire taken from OK Falls on July 14, 2021. (Submitted photos)

Christie vs. Thomas: similarities and differences between the two nearby fires

When the Christie Mountain fire erupted it spread to 1,000 ha in one day

When the Christie Mountain wildfire erupted late last summer, it spread to over 1,000 hectares in a single day on Aug. 18, 2020.

It prompted an evacuation order of 319 homes in the Heritage Hills area and over 3,600 properties were put on alert.

At one point, the entire city of Penticton, including the hospital was put on evacuation alert.

Now the Thomas Creek wildfire east of Okanagan Falls has sent up a cloud of smoke visible from up and down the valley.

While the two fires are close in proximity, they are also far apart.

Unlike Thomas Creek, currently burning out of control 1.5 kilometres east of Skaha Lake and above the town of OK Falls, the Christie Mountain fire started approximately 6 km north of Okanagan Falls, but on the same east side of Skaha Lake, closer to Heritage Hills and Eastside Road.

With the Thomas Creek fire the RDOS emergency operations is again asking people to stay away from the Heritage Hills area and Skaha Lake Rd to Eastside Rd.

The Thomas Creek fire started around 2 p.m. Sunday, July 11 and by nightfall had grown from .50 ha to 500.

As of Wednesday, July 14, it was over 1,500 ha in size.

COVID-19 made fighting the Christie Mountain fire even more difficult, with over 200 firefighters from 50 departments and the BC Wildfire Service attacking the fire. At its peak, the fire spread out over more than 2,000 hectares of land.

By Aug. 31, fire crews managed to contain the Christie Mountain fire to over 2,000 ha and no longer considered it a threat. One home had been lost but many others were saved by the quick and hard work of BC Wildfire and local fire crews.

In both fires, they attacked it by land and by air, using water, fire retardant and setting up containment lines.

On Sept. 11, 2020, BC Wildfire removed the Christie Mountain fire from its list of fires of note.

READ MORE: More than 3,000 homes on alert for Mount Christie fire

Just like the Christie Mountain fire, the Thomas Creek fire is very visible from Highway 97 and Skaha Lake.

So far, no homes have been burned by the Thomas Creek fire and the fire has been moving away from homes since Sunday night.

The lessons that were learned from the Christie Mountain fire were collected into a single report.

Among some of the suggestions to improve are already being used in the Thomas Creek fire including coordinating with the city of Penticton to use their Emergency Evacuation Centre and Emergency Services volunteers.

Among the suggestions of improvement were establishing a joint Emergency Operations Centre between the City of Penticton and the RDOS, which was done.

There was a shortage of liaison officers during the Christie Mountain fire, particularly for coordinating with BC Wildfire, and they lacked standards of procedure and training. More, trained, multi-agency liaisons were needed, the report said.

There were times where the number of agencies involved in the situation made communication difficult.

It took two weeks to get the Christie Mountain wildfire held. As of July 14, 2021, the Thomas Creek fire is four days in and still considered volatile, with ground crews working through an extreme heatwave.

READ MORE: Lessons learned from Christie Mount fire

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