UPDATE: Crews contain wildfire sparked by lumber mill blaze north of Vernon | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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UPDATE: Crews contain wildfire sparked by lumber mill blaze north of Vernon

A fire in a lumber mill and yard along Highway 97 north of Vernon Thursday, June 4, 2021 has grown into a wildfire.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Yvonne Logan
June 03, 2021 - 3:32 PM

The wildfire sparked by a lumber mill blaze in Spallumcheen north of Vernon is contained.

The intense fire at the mill and yard along Highway 97 today, June 3, spread, closing Highway 97, which has since reopened to single lane, alternating traffic.

The Township of Spallumcheen opened its emergency operation centre this afternoon as a precaution and said the blaze near Round Lake Road has been contained.

Local fire crews and B.C. Wildfire Service firefighters responded to the blaze, north of the Historic O'Keefe Ranch. They were supported by air tankers making retardant runs and a helicopter that bucketed water onto the flames.

Sheldon Matte, with neighbouring business Dead or Alive Auto Recycling, said firefighters are now doing a cleanup in the lumber yard.

"We had endless water bombers here for a good three hours," Matte said. "It was pretty wild that's for sure."

Workers were unable to get a water pump on site started before firefighters told them to leave, he said.

They built a barrier between the sawmill and lumber yard and the recycling business by placing dirt between the wood yard and the recycling yard.

"We managed to keep the fire from spreading over here," Matte said.

The fire  completely destroyed everything in the lumber yard, he said.

Fire information officer Madison Smith said the fire grew to about half a hectare, but it may have grown larger before it was contained.

The highway was closed in both directions between Grandview Flats Road North and Tonasket Road for hours. A detour was in place via Highway 1, Highway 97A and Highway 97B. The route has since reopened.

The sawmill and lumber yard is owned by Mardan Enterprises Ltd.

Owner Marv Crombie said the sawmill went up in flames along with lots of lumber.

"I do have insurance but we'll see how good it is," Crombie said. "The fire department is keeping us back from the fire, we're trying to prevent it from getting the neighbours."

Smoke from a structure fire near Highway 97 north of Vernon can be seen in this submitted photo, June 3, 2021.
Smoke from a structure fire near Highway 97 north of Vernon can be seen in this submitted photo, June 3, 2021.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED

Crombie wasn't on the scene when it started. He said they've had "tremendous support from the neighbours and fire department."

For the latest on the highway's status go to the DriveBC website here.

— This story was updated at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, June 3, 2021 to include information from B.C. Wildfire Service.

— This story was updated at 11:50 a.m. Thursday, June 3, 2021 to include information from the owner of the lumber mill.

— This story was updated at 1:25 p.m. Thursday, June 3, 2021 to include new information from B.C. Wildfire Service.

— This story was updated at 3:30 p.m Thursday, June 3, 2021 to include new information from the Township of Spallumcheen.

— This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, June 3, 2021 to include new information from a neighbour and DriveBC.


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