A growing wildfire in British Columbia’s Okanagan area has forced the evacuation of more than 300 properties in the ski resort community.

These properties, including the Apex Mountain Ski Resort in Penticton, were ordered evacuated as the fire showed “aggressive and unpredictable growth,” the Canadian Press reported Tuesday. A small, unoccupied cabin was also destroyed.

Residents of more than 400 other properties have been told to be ready to leave on short notice.

The Keremeos Creek wildfire 21 kilometres southwest of Penticton was nearly 2,790 hectares in size as of Wednesday morning, the BC Wildfire Service reported. It had grown since Monday, “after hot weather fuelled explosive growth since it was sparked Friday,” the Canadian Press added.

For the first time in provincial history, snow-making machines from the mountain resort were being used to fight the fire, the BC Wildfire Service said Tuesday. Although they are only a small part of the firefighting effort, the equipment on Beaconsfield Mountain near Penticton has been running around the clock since Saturday.

James Shalman, general manager of the resort, said the idea to use snow-making machines originated 30 years ago and has remained in its fire prevention plan ever since.

“This is nothing new,” Shalman told the Canadian Press. “It’s just new that we’ve had a fire. We’re doing everything we can at a preventive level.”

Much of the blaze is in steep and inaccessible terrain; crews are concentrating their efforts on areas affecting residents. The fire is suspected to be human-caused.

As of Tuesday, 88 active fires burned in B.C. Forty-four were sparked over the past two days, with the majority suspected to have been caused by lightning. Wildfire danger across most of the southern half of B.C. is ranked at high or extreme, meaning “fires will start easily, spread rapidly and challenge fire suppression efforts,” said BC Wildfire Service.

Another wildfire, near the already fire-ravaged village of Lytton, has not seen much activity recently. The Nohomin Creek fire, located about 1.7 kilometres northwest of Lytton on the west side of the Fraser River, is now about 3,700 hectares in size. It began on July 14, a little more than a year after the village was about 90% destroyed, costing insurers more than $102 million in insured damage.

The Nohomin Creek wildfire shows the Lytton community and surrounding area are at high risk of repeated fires, Glenn McGillivray, managing director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, told Canadian Underwriter last month. At the time, the fire didn’t appear to be having an impact on Lytton proper, although outlying First Nations communities were seeing some impacts. The blaze initially destroyed at least 10 structures on reserves and forced the evacuation of at least 95 people.

“The fire illustrates how important it is to build Lytton back using fire-resistant construction materials and keeping fuels away from structures,” including propane tanks and landscaping vegetation, McGillivray said. “Almost every year, some of the first fires to start in B.C. begin around Lytton.”


Feature image by iStock.com/cfarish

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