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Nk’Mip Creek wildfire drawing lion's share of resources in Okanagan complex

The Nk'Mip Creek wildfire is seen in an Aug. 4, 2021 file photo.
August 10, 2021 - 1:15 PM

Among the three fires active within Okanagan complex, the Nk’Mip Creek wildfire between Oliver and Osoyoos is receiving the most attention today.

“We have nine helicopters in there on the far northwest end, and we also have an additional crew in there of 20 firefighters,” B.C. Wildfire Service fire information officer Greg Jonuk said today, Aug. 10.

Today’s operations at Nk’Mip Creek will primarily focus on “a relatively small area but a critical area,” he said.

If the plan goes well, crews will be able to redeploy many of their ground and resources to other areas.

Nk’Mip Creek may be receiving the most attention today, but a large proportion of resources are also focused on the Thomas Creek wildfire between Penticton and Okanagan Falls. On that front of the battle, 60 personnel from the Canadian Armed Forces are assisting the wildfire service.

“When the Canadian Armed Forces are deployed, we do so in a situation that sets them up for success,” Jonuk said.

It’s an interesting dynamic between fire crews and the Armed Forces, he said, pointing out a lot of wildfire service professionals are used to "supervising folks of all different skill levels.”

Crews in the South Okanagan are also directing the Mexican firefighters who arrived in B.C. last month to assist in the efforts. They arrived in the province on July 24 and are currently on the final day of their first break.

The Mexican crews have been working in the Okanagan complex since they arrived in the province, and it was possible they were going to be redeployed elsewhere, but all 98 of them will be returning to the Nk’Mip Creek wildfire.

“It is possibly could have been redeployed, currently they are set to return, but things could change,” he said. “They’re very well respected firefighters and they come to B.C. highly trained as well.”

Jonuk said the biggest concern for any team member on the ground is changing wind directions – something that’s expected to happen throughout the day.

“A change in wind direction means you have to change your tactics on a particular fire.”

The status of the Brenda Creek wildfire near Peachland has been classified as held since Aug. 5, meaning it’s not expected to grow beyond its current boundaries and is no longer considered a Wildfire of Note.

READ MORE: From residents to B.C. Wildfire, B.C. continues to innovate on fire fighting, detection

Nevertheless it remains on the radar and crews are still working on it. They were able to take advantage of the cooler, wetter weather over the weekend and hit objectives that are a little tricker to achieve.

One of their strategies at Brenda Creek was to fly a heat-scanning drone over the fire to identify hot spots, which were mostly found along the eastern portion of that fire.

“The drone helps crews take a more targeted approach… Those hot spots might not always be apparent, they might sleep during fire behaviour in the morning when it’s cooler and wetter, but then pop up later in the afternoon," Jonuk said.

The wildfire service is being assisted on the Brenda Creek blaze by their Albertan counterparts.

“We’re hoping it will be a mop up operation soon,” he said, though it might not be until September or October before the fire is classified as under control, as it often requires a season-ending rainfall or a snowfall to take place.

Brenda Creek may be the least threatening wildfire within the Okanagan complex, but with critical infrastructure nearby like power lines and Highway 97C, Jonuk said it’s especially important to prevent any flare ups.

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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