'Next 72 hours will be critical' to Thompson-Okanagan wildfires | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'Next 72 hours will be critical' to Thompson-Okanagan wildfires

Crews used planning ignitions to protect guards and reduce fuel on the White Rock Lake fire ahead of coming winds.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/B.C. Wildfire
August 14, 2021 - 9:24 AM

The intense smoke throughout the Thompson-Okanagan region is having a two-edged effect on local wildfires: it’s keeping the temperate lower, which in turn is suppressing fire behaviour but it’s also grounded some air support crews.

But the greater concern is a coming change in weather tonight, Aug. 14, or tomorrow expected to bring strong winds from the southwest, bolstered by gusts up to 50 km/h.

"The next 72 hours will be critical, and the Province is preparing for more evacuation orders and alerts,” B.C. Wildfire said last night. "Increased fire activity in the Southern Interior area is forecasted over the weekend, including significant winds that may move fires quickly due to the nature of the terrain."

Crews on the Nk’Mip fire near Osoyoos and White Rock Lake fire near Vernon and Kamloops are racing against that coming storm to complete guard lines and planned ignitions.

READ MORE: Incident commander takes over B.C. Wildfire social media for personal message

B.C. Wildfire said last night some of those planned ignitions to reduce fuel ahead of the fire on the White Rock Lake fire got complicated yesterday.

"Smoke limited visibility today meaning helicopters were grounded for most of the day. As a result, ignition operations were mainly completed on the ground by hand. Despite this impact to aerial operations, the smoke and haze resulted in lower fire behaviour on site. Ground crews were able to successfully continue to mop up from yesterday's planned ignitions on the northern flank of the fire.”

They also attacked the east flank from Naswhito Creek to Whiteman Creek, using hand ignitions. That fire remains at an estimated 58,000 hectares.

The Incident Command Team on the Nk’Mip fire said it’s planning a 300-hectare ignition on the northwest flank today if weather cooperates.

"Removing this fuel in a controlled manner that is safe for crews and equipment will reduce the risk of spotting and growth to the north west and will aid keeping the fire out of the front country.”

That fire remains at an estimated 17,812 hectares.

The coming storm is expected to greatly increase the size and activity of many of these fires in the area. Yesterday, the minister of public safety urged tourists to avoid visiting Armstrong, Spallumcheen, Okanagan Indian Band, Enderby and other parts of the Regional District of North Okanagan so evacuees will have a safe place to stay in the region.

“We are taking this proactive step because the safety of these communities is paramount,” Farnworth said, adding the situation is very serious and could get worse quickly.

READ MORE: iN VIDEO: Tourists urged to avoid travel to North Okanagan due to White Rock Lake wildfire: minister

To contact a reporter for this story, email Marshall Jones or call 250-718-2724 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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