Keremeos Creek burns nearly 6,000 acres, highway still closed – Penticton News

Written by Javed Iqbal

UPDATE: 3:20 p.m

The Keremeos Creek wildfire has grown to 5,903 hectares, but there is some good news from the ground after what a BC Wildfire Service information officer called a “hairy” night.

Bryan Zandberg with BCWS provided a live update Friday afternoon, explaining gusts late Thursday and subsequent increased fire activity led to late afternoon evacuation orders for the community of Olalla and additional alerts in Keremeos.

Currently, 547 properties are under evacuation order and 1,050 are under emergency alert.

“We got the fire and some embers blown across Highway 3A and got to the other side of it,” Zandberg said.

“We had people there. They acted immediately, but it kind of speaks to the risk and the intensity of the wind yesterday. It was knocked out, that little place was knocked out immediately.”

BCWS requested a closure of Highway 3A to get evacuees out and allow fire crews to get to work, which remains in place as of Friday afternoon.

“I will use the word ‘hairy’ along 3A there to the south,” Zandberg said.

“But you know, just excellent work by all the people working with us on this fire. No new structures lost to report, very happy about that.”

Fire activity died down around 3am and things have been very quiet since.

“I’m just happy to report that it’s pretty quiet in there and we expect it to stay that way because the fuels are gone [due to prescribed burns]. So that’s really good,” Zandberg said.

“Right now we’re really trying to contain the fire in the Cedar Creek basin and we don’t want it to cross over into the Olalla drainage. So that’s something that’s just top of mind for us.”

Up at Apex Mountain it looks good too. Zandberg noted and apologized that a confirmation he gave this week whether the fire’s distance to Apex was incorrect and that the fire is “much further” than 2.5 kilometers away from the resort.

The weather continues to cooperate on the active flanks of the fire, with no significant winds as Thursday’s forecast. However, Zandberg warned that no predictions are certain, and temperatures could rise in the coming days along with less humidity, which could cause a flare-up in fire activity.

In response to questions about the use of water bombers, versus helicopters, versus ground crews, Zandberg explained that he often sees comments on social media about it.

“Maybe some people think it’s a bit of a magic wand, just have a bunch of water bombers come through and just knock out the whole fire. It really doesn’t work that way,” Zandberg said.

“It’s not the only game in town. There’s a lot of things that have to happen on the ground to kill a fire and contain it … I think we’ve used [aviation] to a limited extent. We will use it more if we have to.”

Fifteen helicopters are working on the fire Friday afternoon, part of a crew of more than 390 crew members battling the blaze.

Structure protection has been a high priority and crews are working hard to get people back into their homes as soon as it is safe to do so.

Zandberg also commented on the continued closure of Highway 3A, which he said has been helpful.

“We had a lot of people speeding through there and some real near misses, especially with our structural people,” he explained. “People … come within feet of fire engines on the road. Of course we don’t want to see that. .”

He urged all travelers to respect road closures and drive carefully if and when roads open, and anyone under evacuation should leave the area rather than stay on their property.

“If we get the fire up through a wind event like we had yesterday and things get crazy, it’s really, really dangerous for everyone involved – first responders as well as residents who chose not to evacuate – just sorting things out in the event,” Zandberg said.

“When things get critical, we can see some real risks for sure. We don’t want to see that. So we encourage people to go if they’ve been ordered to.”

The RDOS Emergency Support Services reception center is available for evacuees at 120 Green Avenue West until 5:00 p.m. or later if the orders are extended, and can be reached by phone at 250-328-8749.

RDOS EOC Information Officer Erick Thompson noted that emergency access permits for people who have been evacuated from their property are evaluated on an individual basis and encouraged individuals to contact the EOC at 250-490-4225 first to see if one of many support staff can help before they apply to re-enter the evacuation zone.

Anyone needing help with animals can contact the Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team at 250-490-7152.

Anyone who wants to help evacuees can donate gift cardsor make a cash donation to the Canadian Red Cross, but physical donation items are not accepted at this time.

For an interactive map of properties on evacuation order or alert and more information Click here.

UPDATE: 2 p.m

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen and BC Wildfire Service are hosting a joint live event at

Watch live above.

UPDATE: 11:45 AM

BC Wildfire Services says in its latest update that there was “minimal overnight growth” on the Keremeos Creek wildfire.

No structures were damaged overnight.

“An inversion is forecast today up to 1700 feet, which will affect air operations. Smokey skies may delay flight operations in some sections. Conditions will be similar to yesterday with slightly higher temperatures and gusty winds expected throughout the day,” BCWS says.

“Crews continue to work around the clock along Highway 3A and on the north side of Olalla Creek protecting structures.”

Crews will secure control lines from Yellow Lake traveling north and push control lines north from Sheep Creek Rd toward Green Mountain Road with heavy equipment.

Structural protection crews are on the ground in Olalla with engines and sprinkler systems.

Over 540 properties in rural Keremeos, the Apex area and the village of Keremeos are on evacuation orders.

A further 1,050 properties are under evacuation alert in the same and neighboring regions.

click here for an interactive map of all properties on order and alarm.


Highway 3A between the Kaleden junction and Keremeos remains closed Friday morning as the Keremeos Creek wildfire remains aggressive.

Crews tackle the wildfire, which is affecting the community of Olalla along the highway.

As of Friday morning, there is heavy smoke over Olalla and the adjacent areas, but there was minimal growth on the southern flank.

“Overnight, downslope winds in excess of 30 km/h drove the fire downhill along Hwy 3A south toward Olalla,” reads an update from BCWS.

“Currently, the fire is still within the boundaries of the evacuation order.”

Crews worked through the night on structure defenses around the Cedar Creek drainage and held fire on the west side of Highway 3A. Crews reported rank 4 fire behavior throughout the overnight periods. Wind and slope continue to be the biggest contributors to increased fire behavior.

227 wildland firefighters are assigned to this fire, working with an additional 170 structural protection personnel from fire departments across BC, bringing the total to 397 firefighters.

Olalla has been evacuated from Thursday. Apex Mountain Resort was evacuated earlier this week.

An interactive map of all evacuation zones around the fire is here.

Call 250-328-8749 to access emergency services if your property is on an evacuation order.

Any evacuees in need of transportation can call 250-490-4225.

Any evacuees concerned about their animals can contact ALERT animal rescue at 250-490-7152.

The Emergency Operations Center is open in Penticton Friday from 9am to 5pm at 120 Green Avenue.

DriveBC reports that the next update on the status of Highway 3A will be at

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Javed Iqbal

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