Hundreds of fire evacuees allowed to return home near Anarchist Mountain | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Hundreds of fire evacuees allowed to return home near Anarchist Mountain

A large team of fire fighters from Mexico are in the South Okanagan to help battle the Nk'Mip Creek wildfire.
Image Credit: BC Wildfire Services
August 04, 2021 - 2:02 PM

Evacuation orders have been rescinded for hundreds of South Okanagan homeowners.

The Nk’Mip Creek wildfire, which started on July 19, remains classified as out-of-control by B.C. Wildfire Service, but the flames are no longer in threatening proximity to 223 of the properties that were ordered to evacuate near Anarchist Mountain. 

“With hard work from our crews, we reached a place with the south and west flanks of the fire where B.C. Wildfire Service was able to recommend that the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen and Osoyoos Indian Band downgrade their evacuation orders yesterday,” Claire Allen, Information officer with B.C. Wildfire Service said. “Those communities remain under alert, because with these hot and dry conditions we still want to make sure folks are ready to leave at a moments notice.”

A small number of other properties in the area did not have the evacuation order downgraded.

Allen is working among the Incident Management Team which is temporarily set up in Oliver to oversee the Nk’Mip Creek, Thomas Creek and Brenda Creek wildfires. Part of her crew includes 98 firefighters from Mexico, whose help has been needed most at the Nk’Mip wildfire.

“Any extra crews help in our wildfire suppression efforts, and the members from Mexico have been fantastic,” Allen said, adding that most of the Nk'Mip Creek fire activity is now taking place to the north and east.

Approximately half of those 98 firefighters are familiar with local landscapes having visited British Columbia in the past, she said, while the other half are “tying into our operations really well.”

Emergency responders from Mexican are interwoven into the domestic teams to ensure they have the “structure and support they need” to battle the flames most effectively.
Despite having trained in a country with different topographies and forest ecosystems, “they have excellent wildfire training in Mexico.”

The Mexican firefighters will remain at the Nk’Mip Creek wildfire until the end of the week. After taking a few days off to rest, they will be redeployed to the part of B.C. where they are needed most, Allen said.

  • The Nk’Mip Creek Wildfire east of Oliver and Osoyoos is currently estimated at 16,005 hectares. There are 186 firefighters (including those from Mexico), six helicopters, and 24 pieces of heavy equipment allocated towards the fire.
  • The Thomas Creek wildfire, near Okanagan Falls, is estimated at 10,280 hectares. Focusing on that response are 41 firefighters, eight danger tree assessors/fallers, 38 military personnel, three helicopters, 23 pieces of heavy equipment, and seven support staff.
  • The Brenda Creek wildfire, burning south of Highway 97C and 40 kilometres west of West Kelowna, is classified at 824 hectares. Its response team includes 18 firefighters, two support staff, two danger tree assessors/fallers, three helicopters, and 12 pieces of heavy equipment.

As a result of so many active wildfires, the smoky skies around the province are both hindering and helping with their suppression efforts.

“Smoke inversion puts a bit of a lid on fire behaviour,” Allen said. “It increases the minimum relative humidity and can reduce the ground temperature, but unfortunately it can hinder our ability to utilize all our resources.”

On one especially smoky day, the team was unable to launch any helicopters before 4 p.m. due to lack of visibility.

“But right now, over the last few days, we’re seeing clearer skies,” she said. "Precipitation earlier this week did allow us to have about a day or two of lower fire intensity behaviour but then we went right back into a dryer trend of weather.”

Allen’s team is mostly living out of tents at the Oliver Airport. She said firefighters are grateful that the locals have been “fantastically welcoming towards us,” and reminds the public how important privacy is for the crews in the evening time to let them rest up.

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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