The Hedges Butte fire, which was first reported on Friday at just 0.5 square kilometers, has increased nearly five times in one day. As a result, both the First Nation and the Regional District alerted residents of 62 properties to be ready to leave on short notice.
The blaze is about 12 km southwest of Penticton, according to the British Columbia Wildfire Service. His cause is still under investigation, the agency said, as dozens of firefighters and six helicopters attempted to control the blaze, along with tankers.
“The extreme drought of the forest coupled with the increased winds caused the fire to grow rapidly throughout the day,” the service said.
Chief Greg Gabriel suspects the new fire may have been man-made due to where it was first seen near the reserve boundary.
“It started right by the side of the road, climbed the bank and escaped once he got to the top of the embankment,” he said. “He became very important in a very short time. “
He said he issued the evacuation alert to around 15 homes after discussing the matter with the fire department.
“We hope we have another good day to move forward on the fire… but the smoke is very visible from our community,” he said. “There is no doubt that this generates a lot of anxiety and panic in our community.
“We didn’t quite get over the Skaha Creek fire which is actually on the reserve… and now this new fire is causing more anxiety and stress to many in our community. “
UPDATE: The Hedges Butte Forest Fire (K52762), 12 km southwest of #Penticton, is estimated at 100 ha. Growth is expected due to the winds. Tankers respond and can use Skaha and Okanagan lakes. Please stay away from water-foaming planes to avoid interference with operations. pic.twitter.com/fWUZaP5djD
On Friday, the larger regional district of Okanagan-Similkameen issued an evacuation alert for 47 properties southwest of the community of Farleigh Lake.
British Columbia has seen 17 new fires in the past week. The province says 212 wildfires are currently burning across British Columbia. The majority of active fires are in the Kamloops region, which includes the Okanagan.
This week, the Southeast region increased its share of fires in the province, home to 26% of active fires in British Columbia, just behind nearly 28% of wildfires in Kamloops.
Nearly three-quarters of this year’s fires were blamed on lightning, while 10% were caused by people, the wildfire department said.
A total of 8,648 square kilometers has burned so far this year, 150% more than the forest fire season average of the past decade.
Meanwhile, the number of evacuation orders continues to decline due to improving weather conditions. As of Friday evening, there were 12 evacuation orders covering 1,182 properties, according to Emergency Management BC
Evacuation alerts mean residents must be prepared to leave their homes at all times. An evacuation order means that a resident must leave immediately.
Air quality remained unhealthy in several communities in British Columbia due to forest fires.
The worst air in the province on Saturday was in Lumby, B.C., where air quality exceeded the World Health Organization’s fine particulate matter safety limit of seven times around noon. The community is just east of Vernon, which itself has seen air quality nearly five times worse than the WHO guideline.
Anyone placed under an evacuation order must leave the area immediately.
Evacuation centers have been set up across the province to help anyone evacuated from a community threatened by a forest fire. To find the center closest to you, visit the Emergency Management BC website.
Evacuees are encouraged to register online with emergency support services whether or not they are accessing the services of an evacuation center.