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Locals say wildfires have become 'part of life' as Eagle Bluff fire in South Okanagan continues to grow

Last Updated Aug 7, 2019 at 9:18 pm PST

The Eagle Bluff wildfire as seen from Vaseux Lake north of Oliver, B.C. (Submitted photo)
Summary

Crews continue to battle the Eagle Bluff fire near Oliver, with an expanded evacuation alert for surrounding areas

The Eagle Bluff wildfire is now approximately 1,250 hectares in size

A Fire Information Officer says the growth is positive because it will move into areas that are more operable

OLIVER (NEWS 1130) – The level of wildfire activity in B.C. right now is certainly nowhere near what it has been over the past few years, but still, flames are spreading on the Sunshine Coast and in the south Okanagan.

The Eagle Bluff wildfire is now 1,250 hectares in size and expected to continue to grow over the next few days.

However, Fire Information Officer Nicole Bonnett with the BC Wildfire Service says, for a fire of this size, that’s pretty normal.

“Some of that growth will be a positive thing because it means the fire will move into some areas that are more operable and safer for ground crews and heavy equipment and things like that,” says Bonnett.

An evacuation alert near Oliver has expanded, but a former wildfire fighter says the fire cycle is a natural part of the forest.

Donna — who asked that her last name not be used — has been snapping some dramatic photos of the wildfire while kayaking on Vaseux Lake north of Oliver. She says while some people, particularly tourists, are a little panicky given the evacuation alerts and the spread of the flames, she isn’t sounding the alarm just yet.

“Because I have a background in fighting fire, I have a little more knowledge about fire behaviour, I am a little calmer about this than the average person,” she told NEWS 1130.

Giving a little insight into what goes into fighting wildfires, Donna says crews determine the priorities of their resources.

“They consider homes and infrastructure as the top priority, and other resources of lesser value,” she explained. “So currently, what I’ve been told, is there’s a power station nearby, and that is why there’s so much attention and resources put on this fire.”

 

Meanwhile, the wildfire is forcing BC Corrections to move inmates from the Okanagan Correctional Centre in Oliver to other parts of the province, including to facilities in Surrey and Port Coquitlam.

While it’s only a precaution, Dean Purdy, chair of Corrections and Sheriff’s Services with the BCGEU, is concerned about the safety of correctional staff.

“Overtime is probably at an all-time high… so staff are taxed to the max already, and it is holiday season. So that’s a big concern for us — that we actually have the staff in place,” he says.

He adds staffing levels will be something they’ll monitor as the firefight continues.

On the Sunshine Coast meanwhile, the Sakinaw Lake fire north of Sechelt has spread to 3.8 hectares. The cause of this wildfire is still under investigation.

“Fire crews are making good progress on the fire with 25 per cent containment at this point,” Fire Information Officer Jeanne Larsen explained.

It’s not threatening any infrastructure.