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UPDATE: 'Significant growth' at Thomas Creek wildfire

(UPDATE: July 26 @ 5:45 am): The Thomas Creek wildfire grew last night amid heightened fire activity.

BC Wildfire Service said the blaze now measures about 7,279 hectares.

It remains out of control and its cause is still under investigation.

In an update late last night, BCWS said fire behaviour "increased significantly" on Sunday, particularly in the north and northeast.

<who> Photo credit: BCWS

That caused "significant growth," the agency said.

"This increased fire activity is expected to continue in the coming days as hot, dry and windy conditions will persist," BCWS added.

"No precipitation is anticipated in the near future. These conditions will continue to challenge fire suppression efforts. Safety of crews and the public will remain as the top priority."

Attempts continue to be made to reinforce guard lines in the Christie Mountain area.

BCWS said that's being done "to get ahead of the fire in the north and northeast sections."

On the western flank of the blaze, meanwhile, fire activity has been "relatively quiet."

<who> Photo credit: BCWS

The 201 road is now secure up to the 13 kilometre mark, BCWS said, but remains unsafe in the northeast portion.

"Crews will gradually widen the safe areas along the road over the coming days, but may be hampered by the expected increase in fire activity," the agency said.

Ninety military personnel will be helping with BCWS's efforts in the coming days.

Last night, the fire was being worked on 45 firefighters, five helicopters and 14 pieces of heavy equipment.

Click here for a map showing the latest perimeter.

Evacuation information related to this fire can be found here.


(UPDATE: July 25 @ 4:45 pm): Crews continue to battle the Thomas Creek wildfire burning in the Kamloops Fire Centre.

According to the BCWS, the blaze is still at 6,960 hectares. It is classified as out of control.

Fire behavior has been relatively quiet on the blaze, though it is expected to increase this afternoon.

The most active part of the fire continues to be the north flank in heavier timber.

"The fire has now burned into the area of the Christie Mountain Fire, which may result in decreased fire behavior in that area due to a reduction in available fuel. Crews and equipment will be working in the Christie Mountain area to create guard lines using existing roads, old fire guards and other natural features."

"Today crews will patrol the guard line on the west flank and may begin to demobilize equipment in this area."

A total of 45 firefighters, five helicopters and 14 pieces of heavy equipment are on scene today. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

NowMedia will update the story when more information is available.

(UPDATE: July 22 @ 6:31 am): The Thomas Creek wildfire has, as predicted by BC Wildfire Service, grown.

It's now up to 6,960 hectares.

It remains out of control and its cause is still be investigated.

Last night, an updated area restriction was implemented.

<who> Photo credit: BCWS

BCWS said it made more good progress on the fire yesterday.

But it added: "An increase in winds is predicted through Friday, which may result in elevated fire behaviour and additional fire growth."

Writing yesterday, the agency explained: "Tomorrow, crews will be working to extinguish hotspots along the south east flank. Heavy equipment will be used to build contingency guard lines to the east of the fire."

In its latest update, BCWS said it had 29 firefighters, five helicopters and 19 pieces of heavy equipment working at the fire.


(UPDATE: July 21 @ 12:20 pm): Increased winds could lead to growth at the Thomas Creek wildfire today, according to the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS).

It comes after a relatively calm day on Tuesday, with fire growth "minimal."

"Crews made good progress yesterday on reinforcing the south flank guard line above properties along the highway," BCWS explained.

Fire activity was most active "in the heavier timber to the north," the agency added.

But speaking about today, it explained: "An increase in winds is predicted for today, which may result in elevated fire behaviour and additional fire growth."

Crews succeeded in establishing a contingency guard in the southeast yesterday.

BCWS teams also defended a wooden bridge from flames on the 201 road.

"The protection of life and property along the south flank will continue as the main priority," BCWS said.

"Work on contingency guard will continue to the north and west."

The blaze remains 6,558 hectares in size and is still out of control.

Its cause remains under investigation.

In its most recent update, BCWS said it had 29 firefighters, five helicopters and 19 pieces of heavy equipment dealing with the fire.


(UPDATE: July 19 @ 11:50 am): This morning's good news has been dashed with a new update from BC Wildfire Service (BCWS).

The agency said the Thomas Creek wildfire has grown to 6,558 hectares.

It's down to growth at the head of the fire, BCWS explained.

"The protection of life and property along the south flank is the main priority today," the agency explained.


(UPDATE: July 19 @ 9:30 am): The Thomas Creek wildfire is now estimated to be slightly smaller.

More accurate mapping work undertaken on Saturday helped BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) determine that the fire is now at 5,408 hectares, down from 5,500.

It remains out of control.

<who> Photo credit: BCWS </who> The fire on Saturday.

In its most recent update, the wildfire service said fire behaviour at the site amounted to a "low to moderately vigorous surface fire."

BCWS said it had also recently worked to complete a contingency guard and contain excursions along the 201 road.

An area restriction remains in place, alongside an evacuation alert.

The fire's cause remains unknown.

BCWS last said there were 23 firefighters, six helicopters and 22 pieces of heavy equipment fighting the blaze.


(UPDATE: July 16 @ 5:33 am): There has been more growth in the Thomas Creek wildfire.

It's now up to 5,500 hectares.

BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) said it remains out of control.

Its cause is still being investigated.

Evacuation information related to this fire can be found here.

In its most recent update, BCWS said it had 30 firefighters and four helicopters battling the blaze.


(UPDATE: July 15 @ 4:50 pm): The Thomas Creek wildfire remains at 5,000 hectares and is still classified as out of control.

The City of Penticton is requesting that recreational boaters on Skaha Lake stay away from going near air tankers that are refilling and maintain operational awareness of aircraft at all times.

Ground personnel will continue to work on the west/southwest flank of the fire closest to homes and are assisted by heavy equipment to establish and reinforce fire guards.

Planned ignitions between the fire guard and the fire perimeter will help eliminate available fuels.

There are currently 30 firefighters on scene, working alongside six helicopters and two water tenders.

An evacuation alert remains in place for 704 properties in Electoral Area "D."

NowMedia will continue to update the story as information is provided.


(UPDATE: July 15 @ 5:27 am): The Thomas Creek wildfire has now grown to 5,000 hectares, the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) has said.

In an update last night the agency said the blaze was "demonstrating aggressive fire behaviour."

An Area Restriction Order was issued yesterday preventing access for most people in the vicinity of the fire.

<who> Photo credit: BCWS </who> The fire viewed from Summerland.

Hundreds of homes remain under evacuation alert due to the fire.

BCWS said yesterday it had 33 firefighters at the scene, alongside six helicopters and several pieces of heavy equipment.

"Due to the winds in the area, smoke is very visible from Penticton to Vernon," the agency added.

"This fire will remain highly visible over the next few days while BC Wildfire Service continues to respond."


(UPDATE: July 14 @ 5:37 am): The Thomas Creek wildfire is now estimated to be 1,500 hectares in size.

A map detailing evacuation information can be found here.

The fire remains out of control.

Its cause is under investigation.

BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) said in its most recent update that 30 firefighters, six helicopters and multiple pieces of heavy equipment were engaged in fighting the blaze.

Four personnel stayed overnight to monitor the fire.

In a summary of its activities, BCWS wrote: "Ground personnel will continue to work on the west flank of the fire closest to homes and are assisted by heavy equipment to establish and reinforce fire guards.

"Planned ignitions between the fire guard and the fire perimeter will help eliminate available fuels."


(UPDATE: July 13 @ 5:48 am): The estimated size of the Thomas Creek wildfire has increased.

BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) said the blaze is now up to 900 hectares.

"The size increase is attributed to more accurate mapping this evening as visibility increased," BCWS explained.

It remains out of control.

The evacuation order issued for 77 properties on Sunday has now been rescinded and replaced with an evacuation alert.

Another 627 properties remain under an alert.

"BC Wildfire Service and the RDOS EOC are actively assessing the situation and should conditions deteriorate, evacuation orders may be issued for affected residents," the regional district explained.

The fire's cause remains under investigation.

According to BCWS's latest update, there are 33 personnel responding to the fire.

Helicopters, heavy equipment and local firefighters are also assisting.

BCWS said personnel remained at the site overnight.


(UPDATE: July 12 @ 1:20 pm): According to wildfire officer Kim Janowsky during a noon RDOS Emergency Operations Centre Information Session, firefighting crews had a "very successful evening" battling the Thomas Creek blaze just east of Okanagan Falls.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who>

However, smoke is so thick that BC Wildfire can't get an accurate read on its current size.

"When I flew the fire yesterday, it was approximately 200 hectares," said Janowsky.

"It grew substantially overnight, but because of smoke conditions I haven't been able to get up to have a look at it today.

"But we had a very successful evening. We had crews working all throughout the evening. They were tasked with putting in some burn operations behind the property. So we had containment lines established by heavy equipment and they went in and were completely getting rid of the fuels from the containment line and then had it burn up into where the main fire was."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who>

"That all went very well. There were no excursions over the line and so we're very thankful it went as well as it did."

At this hour, crews are on the ground continuing to "mop up and patrol" the fire, which is generally traveling in a southeasterly direction, away from the town of Okanagan Falls.

"In support, we have three helicopters bucketing the perimeter," said Janowsky. "That will be continuing throughout the day. It'll probably take us a couple days to get that containment line in the east side."

He also tried to assuage concerns over Sunday evening's seemingly more intense fire activity.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who>

"People may have seen the burn operations last night," said Janowsky. "That's all part and parcel with the way we fight these fires, and the reason is to eliminate the fuel between the containment lines we establish. If we don’t do that, it has more potential of escaping."

Janowsky also emphasized that the fire, as of Sunday afternoon, was considered extremely serious.

"(Yesterday afternoon) it was in the upper ranks of our fire ranking system," he said. "Our system goes from one to six. The behaviour was rated a five yesterday afternoon."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who>

RDOS Area D director Ron Obirek was quick to praise the efforts of firefighting crews on and off the ground.

"Based on what I know," he said, "I just think they've had fantastic success. They had a fast response. The evacuation of the 77 properties. They were successful in keeping all structures confirmed as safe overnight, and efforts were made to help people with their livestock.

"The response was quick and in terms of outcomes right now, it's a very good outcome."


(UPDATE: July 12 @ 5:14 am): The Thomas Creek wildfire has grown to 500 hectares.

BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) said in its latest update last night that the fire remains out of control.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) issued an evacuation order for 77 properties and an evacuation alert for 600 more in Electoral Area D.

<who> Photo credit: RDOS

A state of local emergency has also been declared by RDOS.

The fire's cause remains unknown.

<who> Photo credit: Darcia Harcott </who> The fire on Sunday.

BCWS said last night that eight firefighters and two helicopters were fighting the blaze.

"Crews will remain on this incident overnight," the agency added.


(Original story: July 11 @ 6:43 pm): An aerial battle is ongoing this hour as crews fight the newly formed Thomas Creek wildfire in the McLean Creek Road region just east of Okanagan Falls.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who>

According to BC Wildfire, which as of 5:45 Sunday afternoon classified it as out of control, the blaze was first reported at 1:30 pm. It is currently 100 hectares in size.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who>

From our vantage point near the old Weyerhaeuser site in the hills directly to the east of OK Falls, PentictonNow witnessed a serious air assault mid-afternoon.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who>

Involved were helicopters, at least two Conair Convair air tankers, two RJ85 air tankers and an "air attack" (birddog) target identifying aircraft. A fleet of smaller "skimmers" also arrived at approximately 5 pm.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who>

BC Wildfire reports "heavy ground equipment" is also on site for a fire they suspect is human caused.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who>

The fire began on the west side of a bluff just east of Peach Cliff, which towers over the town of OK Falls. Prevailing southern winds quickly expanded its size.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who>

Traffic into the area is being rerouted. Roadblocks were set up on McLean Creek Road (at Maple Street, near downtown) and again where Maple Creek Road intersects with Eastside Road several kilometers north.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who>

We'll have more when the situation warrants it.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who>

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who>

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who>



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