Firefighters making progress on South Okanagan wildfires as Australian crew prepares to head home | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Firefighters making progress on South Okanagan wildfires as Australian crew prepares to head home

The BC Wildfire Service is being assisted by these four highly qualified Australian Division supervisors, on the Okanagan Complex.
Image Credit: BC Wildfire Service
August 25, 2021 - 12:05 PM

The Thomas Creek wildfire south of Penticton is now being held and the end is in sight for the Nk’Mip Creek wildfire between Oliver and Osoyoos.

“There’s still a real body of work left to do,” fire information officer Luke Robinson said of the Nk’Mip blaze, who is among a nine-person incident management team from Australia. The team's time in the South Okanagan is coming to and end.

Most of the work left to do on the 20,066 hectare fire is locking in containment lines and mopping up hot spots on the northern and eastern flanks. BC Wildfire has recommended the evacuation order be downgraded to alert on Mt. Baldy and for structural protection equipment to be removed by tomorrow, Aug. 25.

Robinson said there is another week or so of work on Nk'Mp to reach held status if they have no further issues.

But before next week, Robinson and his team will be leaving for Australia, after arriving in the province on July 27.

Their role of managing the Okanagan complex will be handed back to the wildfire service tomorrow, Aug. 26.

During their transition, he said it’s important to give the next managers clear direction about their objectives and plans – namely the containment lines along the Nk’Mip fire – and to be in a strong position to adapt to the fluid situation.

READ MORE: Nk'Mip wildfire burning towards Baldy Mountain Resort

A perimeter map of the Nk'Mip Creek wildfire, which has not seen any significant growth over the past week.
A perimeter map of the Nk'Mip Creek wildfire, which has not seen any significant growth over the past week.
Image Credit: BC Wildfire Service

Although Robinson feels like the Okanagan complex is in very good shape, he would stay longer to work if he could. The schedules are set well in advance, as BC Wildfire Service has crews on 14-day rotations, and the team from Australia will require a 14-day hotel quarantine upon arrive home.

“We wish we could do more… but we’re very happy with the work we’ve been able to accomplish down here," he said.

When asked about the most intense moments over his summer in B.C., the first thing that came to mind for Robinson was when the Nk’Mip fire jumped the containment line and crossed over Baldy Road on Aug. 15.

“The other was up in the Tremont Creek fire,” he said about his team’s previous deployment. “We had a day where it took a significant run to the northeast again, jumped a containment line, and we had to adjust accordingly pretty quickly.”

After teaming up with a wide range of firefighters – having received help from firefighters from Mexico, Alberta, Newfoundland, the Yukon, as well as members of the Canadian Armed Forces – Robinson said they all share a few common traits.

“We all have the desire to get in, get the job done and stay safe,” he said. “We’re all very much so on the same page regardless of any cultural barriers. We all know what the job is, we all understand fire in the same way.”

READ MORE: Crews attack Tremont Creek wildfire directly in cooler conditions


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