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Crews doing 'pretty darn good' on South Okanagan wildfires: fire information officer

The BC Wildfire Service is being assisted by these four highly qualified Australian division supervisors, who are supervising the Okanagan Complex.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/BC Wildfire Services
August 13, 2021 - 4:16 PM

The two out-of-control fires under the management of the BC Wildfire Service Okanagan complex are the Thomas Creek and Mk’Nip Creek wildfires, and both are seeing the most activity near their northern tips today.

“At Mk'Nip Creek it’s burning almost right at the north central trip, the very crown of the fire where the activity is,” BC Wildfire Service fire information officer Greg Jonuk said today, Aug. 13. “And on Thomas Creek the north west and north east areas are where we’ve been seeing the most activity.”

Jonuk said it’s pure coincidence that both fires are seeing the most activity towards their northern points.

Those areas with the most fire activity continue to benefit from winds that blow in from the north-northwest. Wind directions were expected to have changed by today but are now forecasted to continue until tomorrow.

Crews are preparing for the shifting winds by getting a head start on strengthening the guards on the southern, southeastern and eastern flanks.

Then on Sunday evening, strong winds are expected to create more difficult conditions.

"That could result in some growth,” Jonuk said. “We’ll be reanalyzing how we’re going to address a windier period."

READ MORE: More help coming from Quebec as B.C.'s wildfire situation heats up

And despite the challenges near the northern tips of the other two fires, crews in the Okanagan complex are doing relatively well.

“We’re flying under the radar with our three fires, which are doing pretty darn good in comparison (to other complexes in B.C.),” he said. The Brenda Creek Wildfire, the third fire in the complex, had its status downgraded from out of control to held back on Aug. 5.

But with forecasts predicting warmer, windier days over the weekend, the Okanagan complex may find itself in a worse situation by the start of next week. 

“If those conditions cause our three fires to heat up, then we’d be back in line for more resources," Jonuk said.

With the way things are going though, he said it's very likely that resources from the Okanagan complex may be redeployed elsewhere in the province.

“We don’t like to necessarily talk about resources being removed from our deployment, but as provincial needs change relative to other places, that’s a distinct reality.”

In the event of a fourth wildfire burning within the Okanagan complex, the wildfire service has crews on standby for an initial attack response, so no resources would immediately get diverted away from the existing fires. Ideally the initial response team will take care of new fires before more resources are needed.

“Every fire zone is well equipped with several initial attack crews,” he said. “BC Wildfire really beefed up its initial attack resources a few years ago – the 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons put a high priority on that.”

As of today the Nk’Mip Creek wildfire is estimated at 17,472 hectares. It has 192 firefighters, 10 structural protection personnel, 39 support staff, 38 pieces of heavy equipment and nine helicopters dedicated towards it.

Thomas Creek, estimated at 11,755 hectares, is being taken on by 33 firefighters, 62 Canadian Armed Forces personnel, 32 support staff, 28 pieces of heavy equipment and four helicopters.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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