Evacuation orders and alerts for more than 2,000 properties near the Nk’Mip Creek fire in the South Okanagan stretched all the way from Highway 97 to Highway 33 as of Wednesday afternoon.
The blaze itself was still officially pegged at 2,000 hectares by the BC Wildfire Service, but spokesman Dale Bojahra said smoke was making it difficult to get an accurate size estimate. He was not aware of any structures being lost to the flames.
Since it sparked on Monday afternoon east of Highway 97 approximately halfway between Osoyoos and Oliver, the fire has skirted the two towns and moved through rural aeras towards Anarchist Mountain.
Bojahra said the favourable direction of travel was partly the work of firefighters through the use of containment lines, but more so a result of wind.
Gusty winds were expected on the fire Wednesday night as a weather system moved through the Southern Interior and carried with it the potential for trouble.
“Generally speaking, whenever we have passage of a (weather) system like this, quite often you’ll see a 180-degree shift in the winds, so the crews will certainly be watching for that and preparing for that,” said Bojahra.
He described the fire terrain as “challenging,” ranging from sagebrush on the valley bottom to heavy timber at the top.
“You have a lot of rocky ground, rolling hills, in some places we have almost cliff-like features,” said Bojahra.
As of Wednesday afternoon, approximately 650 properties were under an evacuation order and 1,700 more were on alert.
The affected properties were in an area that extended approximately 35 kilometres from Highway 97 east to Highway 33, and roughly 20 kilometres from Oliver south to the Canada-U.S. border.
Meanwhile, there was minimal growth Wednesday on two other fires burning in the region.
The larger of the two, centred on Thomas Creek near Okanagan Falls, was still pegged at 6,600 hectares.
The fire, which is suspected to be human-caused, lit up July 11 in the hills approximately 1.5 kilometres east of Skaha Lake near the midway point of McLean Creek Road.
Since then, the fire has generally been moving to the north and east, away from Okanagan Falls and towards the 201 Forest Service Road, which is doing double-duty as a fuel break.
A total of 704 properties in the area were under an evacuation alert.
And the Brenda Creek fire was holding steady at 450 hectares approximately three kilometres south of the Okanagan Connector near Peachland. There were 42 properties under an evacuation order in the Headwaters area.
Across the province, there were a total of 3,078 properties under an evacuation order and 16,225 more under an alert as of Wednesday morning, according to a bulletin issued by the BC Wildfire Service.
The agency had 3,180 personnel on the ground and 178 aircraft in the sky as 296 fires burned.
Since April 1, approximately 310,000 hectares – or 3,100 square kilometres – of land has been scorched. That’s nearly 15 times the size of the City of Kelowna, which covers an area of about 210 square kilometres.
This article was updated Wednesday with information from Dale Bojahra and data from the BC Wildfire Service