A plane flies over smoke billowing from the Mount Eneas fire last week. Photo courtesy of Meghann Fletcher

Progress being made on Okanagan wildfires

Danger not over, fires could flare up again

Firefighting crews have made good progress on wildfires burning throughout the Okanagan, thanks to a couple of days of cooler weather.

Related: RDOS: Evacuation order amended, residents north of Summerland can return home

Less smoke in the air also means cleaner air. The Air Quality Health Index for the South, Central and North Okanagan regions are all forecast to be low risk throughout Sunday.

“I was lucky enough to get up in the air yesterday, late afternoon,” said Noelle Kekula, spokesperson for region’s complex incident team.“It looks great. Really good progress has been made.

“Crews really did a great job to get some containment lines in, hand lines, machine guards.”

In the areas where machine or hand word wasn’t possible, retardant and water drops help to make a bit of a line, she said.

“Those crews really have been putting a lot of backbreaking effort into it, and the successes are being seen. I am happy to say we are seeing progress,” Kekula said, adding a caution that the fires are far from out.

She likens a campfire. The fire may look out, but if you blow on it, the embers will flare up again. People might not see a lot of open flame or smoke at the moment, but the danger is far from over.

Related: Evacuation numbers remain at nearly 1,000 as B.C. wildfires rage on

“It literally is a bed of coals,” said Kekula. The objective now is to extinguish hot spots around the perimeters of the fires, so when the wind blows the fire up again, there is no material around for it to burn.

“This is a tricky time we are in,” said Kekula. “You feel like there is a bit of a calm, and then the wind picks up and off it goes again. I don’t want people to think we are out of the woods. It is getting hot and dry again; we wait and see what the weather does.”

Kekula said the best thing that could happen right now would be a significant amount of rain, but that isn’t in the forecast.

The Mount Eneas fire, last estimated at 1374 hectares, is still considered out of control.

Related: Update: Mount Eneas wildfire holds at 1,374 hectares

“Until we are confident that we have a containment around it, and are confident it won’t take off on us, it will remain out of control,” said Kekula.

“We do not have containment on these fires yet.”

That includes Goode’s Creek in Okanagan Mountain Park (400 hectares); Mount Conkle near Summerland (118 hectares); Law Creek near West Kelowna (10 hectares) and Placer Mountain, near Princeton (320 hectares).

“They are all unique. Because of that, we have to approach each one differently. We have 18 helicopters, we have over 200 firefighters and we have these resources we can move around to where we need,” said Kekula.

Related: Update: Wildfire near Summerland mapped at 118 hectares

Related: Update: Okanagan Mountain Park fire holds at 400 hectares

Related: Okanagan Wildfires: An evening update on wildfires and evacuations


Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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