Wildfires in the area between the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys have shaped up as the biggest direct threat to BC ranchers this fire season, after last year’s intense, large-scale fires.
The Keremeos Creek wildfire 21 kilometres southwest of Penticton remains classed as out of control, and at 17,171 acres is the largest blaze outside the Northwest regional fire centre.
But for Wade Clifton of Clifton Ranch, located north of Keremeos off Highway 3A, the fire did little damage to his property, thanks in part to a backburn crews lit on the Olalla Creek Forest Service Road on August 11.
“We were really nervous about the ash because we thought it was going to come down on us. In the end, it never really got here,” Clifton says. “They had a backburn and got it stopped. They have a bit of smoke up top. I think they pretty well have this end hopefully kind of tied up.”
Concerted efforts to smooth relationships between provincial first-responders and ranchers have improved fire fighting efforts, and Clifton praised the BC Wildfire Service crews.
“They did a very good job on our end when they got here,” Clifton says of the fire crews in his area.
Other ranchers weren’t so lucky. The wildfire has claimed residences and ranch infrastructure, one of three in the region to cause property damage. Evacuation alerts and orders remain in place for the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.
A total of 329 firefighters, 27 structure protection personnel, a liaison from the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, 17 helicopters and 22 pieces of heavy equipment are tackling the Keremeos Creek blaze, according to the BC Wildfire Service. Resources are being shared between the Keremeos Creek and Richter Mountain wildfires, two of 265 fires in the Kamloops fire centre, the most active this year to date.
Precipitation this past weekend also helped the fire situation in the southern Interior.
“We did get a good rain on Saturday night,” Clifton says. “We didn’t get any lightning strikes out of it, but it did rain hard for about 20 minutes or so, which really dampened things down. That really helped us a lot.”
Weather forecasts for Wednesday and Thursday predict “a warming trend,” BC Wildfire Service says. As of Tuesday, there was a total of 126 fires burning in the province.