Wildfires in B.C. wine country force residents from vineyards, orchards | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Wildfires in B.C. wine country force residents from vineyards, orchards

August 16, 2015 - 1:00 AM

OLIVER, B.C. - Fast-moving wildfires in the heart of British Columbia's wine country are threatening prized vineyards and orchards, with scores of residents forced out of their homes.

Two fires are raging near the picturesque tourist town of Oliver in the Okanagan Valley. Though residents affected by the 300-hectare Wilson Mountain fire were allowed home Saturday, about 100 homes near the 15-square kilometre Testalinden Creek fire remain under evacuation order.

Mikkel Day, who owns Backyard Farm with her husband, was among the evacuees. She stood in the parking lot of a nearby vineyard on Saturday, watching as smoke engulfed the hillside overlooking her orchard.

Clutching her seven-month-old daughter, Ainsley, Day said buying the two-acre hobby farm nine years ago was their dream and she couldn't even fathom losing it.

"Everything that can be done is getting done, so you just have to let it happen," she said with a sigh. "It's out of your hands. I think they're doing an amazing job.

"I'm just kind of resigned to it. There's nothing I can do. The baby's safe and that's all that really matters."

Day said a large windstorm swept Oliver at around 6 p.m. Friday. By 9 p.m., the whole mountain ridge above her property was ablaze.

"It was just totally on fire," she said. "It really lit up the sky."

The young family got the evacuation order just after 1 a.m. but stayed the night. Day took her daughter in the morning to the vineyard across the highway, while her husband stayed behind to douse their land with a water hose.

She said the blaze clearly grew in size on Saturday, creeping further along the ridge. But she said it looked much less active than on Friday and the water bombers had been hard at work all day.

"My husband says down there, you can see a lot of flames," she said. "It looks so much better from up here."

By nightfall, the mountain glowed with bright orange spot fires. Tourists drank wine on a vineyard patio as flames flickered against the dark sky.

Meantime, a blaze that ignited on Thursday evening about 40 kilometres to the east, near Rock Creek, continued to burn. The fire was mapped at 37 square kilometres and about 330 homes remained under an evacuation order.

"This wildfire is uncontained and extremely dangerous," the B.C. Wildfire Service said on its website. "Anyone entering the evacuation area will be putting themselves and firefighters at risk."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
The Canadian Press

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