Ballooning B.C. wildfire prompts evacuation alerts

KELOWNA, B.C. — Dozens of people living in southern British Columbia have been forced to leave their homes as winds fan a wildfire nearby.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen issued an evacuation order Sunday afternoon for 55 properties west of Summerland as crews fight a fire burning about 30 kilometres southwest of Kelowna.

Residents in more than 300 properties in the nearby Central Okanagan Regional District have been warned that they, too, may have to leave on a moment’s notice.

The regional district said there has been “substantial growth” in the fire since it sparked on Saturday.

Strong winds have fanned the flames burning in steep terrain and the wildfire is estimated to be about 10 square kilometres, the BC Wildfire Service said in an update on Sunday.

“The main factors influencing this fire behaviour are terrain, wind speed/direction … and largely this fire activity and rate of spread is due to how dry the fuels are within this area of the Okanagan,” the service said on its website.

The update noted that the area hasn’t had significant rainfall in more than two months.

Twenty-three firefighters, three helicopters and four pieces of heavy equipment were working to contain the fire on Sunday.

Crews are also fighting a series of wildfires in southeastern B.C. that have forced hundreds of people from their homes and closed campgrounds over the long weekend.

The Regional District of East Kootenay has issued evacuation orders for more than 400 properties outside of Cranbrook, as two separate fires continue to burn out of control.

Loree Duczek with the regional district said in a statement that aggressive fire behaviour on Saturday prompted officials to order more people out of their homes.

“We are seeing ash and debris being cast a long distance on the head of the fire,” Duczek said. “Our first priority is public safety. These decisions are not made lightly.”

Heat and wind have created “strong burning conditions,” and there’s very little precipitation on the horizon, the regional district said.

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