A helicopter on scene at the Richter Creek wildfire, about 12 kilometres west of Osoyoos. (Photo courtesy of BC Wildfire)

Update: Plan to see more smoke from South Okanagan wildfire

Richter Creek wildfire, 12 kilometres west of Osoyoos, is an estimated 400 hectares

Update 10:37 a.m.

A planned ignition to burn off combustible material is anticipated to happen this afternoon at the Richter Creek wildfire, west of Osoyoos.

“We have heavy equipment working overnight and crews established a guard. Now the fire incident management team will be transitioning in to respond to the fire. They have developing operational plans to implement a planned ignition in the early afternoon. They will conduct a burn north and west flanks of the fire depending on weather conditions,” said Nicole Bonnett, fire information officer.

This means the fire will jump up to 560 hectares, as they will have a controlled burn of up to 160 hectares. Bonnett said people will see more smoke in the area due to the controlled burn.

“It will remove the combustible fuels and bring the fire down to a more workable area because the terrain that is currently burning is not great or safe to put crews into all the areas. This brings it down to safe, workable ground,” she said.

There is currently 60 firefighters on the scene and 20 more on the way to assist. Helicopters will provide bucketing support today and air tankers will lay down retardant lines to further bolster the guard.

With a long weekend coming out, Bonnett is reminding everyone to keep watch and if they suspect a fire to call it in.

“As we move into the long weekend we are seeing conditions that allow wildfires to ignite. We want everyone to be mindful of their activities and if they see a wildfire to call,” she said.

To report a wildfire, unattended campfire or open burning violation, call 1-800-663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone.

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More evacuation alerts were put in place as the Richter Creek wildfire, 12 kilometres west of Osoyoos, continues to burn.

B.C. Wildfire said a vehicle fire that spread to adjacent grass is the cause of the blaze, which is now at an estimated 400 hectares.

Hannah Swift, a fire information officer, said two helicopters and over 40 firefighters are on the ground. The fire is classified as out of control at this time, and a number of resources dedicated to the fire will continue to increase over the coming days.

There are 13 properties in Cawston (west of Osoyoos) now on evacuation alert. These include 10 on Sumac Road (House numbers 154, 156, 164, 172, 190, 264, 296, 306, 611 and 620) and three properties on Highway 3.

READ MORE: Richter Creek wildfire now an estimated 400 hectares

This is the first major wildfire for the year for the Kamloops Fire Region and the second wildfire of note in the province — the other fire is 236 hectares and is burning west of Vanderhoof near Fraser Lake.

According to Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, this isn’t a signal of another hot summer for fires in B.C. He said rainfall throughout the province is slightly above average for a normal year.

“The other key issue will depend on what we have in terms of rainfall precipitation in June. That is the bigger predictor of where the fire season is going,” he added.

READ MORE: June rain will tell if B.C. is in for another hot wildfire season

The B.C. Wildfire Service’s early summer outlook notes that a dry March was eased by normal April weather, and June is traditionally a wetter month. Lack of rain in May and June set up conditions for record fire damage in 2017 and 2018.

The province has a multi-media awareness campaign underway to remind people to be safe with any combustible materials.

“There are significant penalties in place for people who are found to have started fires, up to $1 million,” Farnworth said. “People need to be aware that careless activity, whether it’s a campfire or a cigarette butt out the window, can cause extraordinary damage. Two years ago, at least half the fires were human caused.”

To date, there have been 29 fires — one human-caused — in the Kamloops Fire Centre, burning 281 ha. Across the province, there have been 169 fires, seven of them human-caused.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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