Thick plumes of smoke pumping through the air near the Apex Mountain Resort in British Columbia make the threat evident to hundreds of people on evacuation alert in the area due to a wildfire.
“Yeah, we’re a little worried now,” said Chris Martens, as he loaded his truck with important goods, in case he and his neighbors were ordered to leave the area.
The Keremeos Creek wildfire is burning about 21 kilometers southwest of Penticton and is classified as out of control.
Twenty-five neighboring properties are already under evacuation orders.
“We were on a road trip. We just heard about it yesterday from our friends and the next thing you know, we got a lot of messages,” Martens said. “So we went home and we’re sorting things out to maybe go on another road trip.”
So far, only four families have registered with emergency services in the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District – and as of Sunday, people were still trying to access the evacuation zone.
“I’m going to cross now,” said resident Mark Flood as he stood in front of a Road Closed sign. “I hope I don’t meet any resistance. I’m not staying here today. I’m just going to check home just to see what’s going on there.
Since its discovery on Friday, the Keremeos Creek fire has spread over nearly 500 hectares.
“I expect that to increase in the next few days given the conditions we’ve seen in the area,” said Jean Strong of the BC Wildfire Service. “It’s hot and dry and it’s quite steep terrain which can be difficult for our crews to access.”
An incident management team has been assigned to the fire which is being attacked by eight helicopters and 29 BC Wildfire Service frontline personnel.
The area where it burns is too steep for fixed-wing aircraft to perform effective missions.
Local fire departments, including Keremeos, Naramata and Summerland, all sent crews and trucks to focus on protecting structures.
Apex Mountain Resort has deployed its snow cannons to spray water on its buildings and infrastructure to prevent them from igniting from wind-blown embers.
A total of 357 properties in this area remain on evacuation alert, with residents urged to prepare to leave quickly if the fire continues to spread in their direction.
“We know they get nervous. It’s only three or four kilometers from a very high density area,” said Bill Newell, regional district administrative manager. “So we are actively planning an evacuation of Apex right now.”
At the moment this is not considered necessary, but the situation could change quickly.