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B.C. wildfires: Out of control fire doubles in size in just over 12 hours

Vancouver -

A new wildfire burning near Penticton, B.C., has grown to 212 hectares.

The Skaha Lake fire was discovered on Saturday and is believed to be human caused.

“The major challenge that we are facing in regards to the Skaha Creek wildfire is the fuel,” said Erika Berg, fire information officer with B.C. Wildfire Service. “Those fuels have been extremely dry, since spring, and so what little bit of precipitation that that area may have received over the course of the spring and summer, hasn’t been enough to really dampen those fuels.”

Multiple air tankers and skimmers are working to contain it.

“At the time of ignition it was six kilometres southwest of Penticton,” said Berg. “(It’s) currently not threatening any structures.”

Videos on social media show massive orange and red flames shooting in the sky.

“It was a bit on the scary side last night especially around midnight where the flames were very, very visible,” said John Vassilaki, Penticton Mayor. “That put concerns into place for folks living around that area.”

“Recreational boaters on Skaha and Okanagan Lakes are also asked to stay close to shore to allow aircraft responding to the nearby wildfire to collect lake water,” said a news release issued by the city Sunday.

The Penticton Indian Band and Westhills Aggregates are also supporting the BC Wildfire Service and are working to improve road conditions to allow crews and equipment better access to the fire site.

“The Band would like to remind the public to avoid areas and roadways close to the fire as it puts responders and the community at risk,” the city's statement said.  

On Monday morning the Penticton Indian Band tweeted it was activating its Emergency Operations Centre. In the statement it added, “there are winds expected this afternoon coming from the north sustained at 20 kilometres per hour, gusting to 40 kilometres per hour. Ground crews and aerial support continue suppression efforts and building containment guards.”

Vassilaki said the City of Penticton has offered its assistance should the Penticton Indian Band need it.

“We found in the city of Penticton about 140 hotel rooms if they’re ever necessary,” said Vassilaki. “There’s no danger of that fire to ever catch up to any structures on Penticton Indian Band lands, so I mean everything’s pretty safe over there.”

Vassilaki said he does not anticipate there being any closures to highway 97 because of this fire. As of Monday morning, he said there was just some smoke in the sky.

Meanwhile, a large-scale controlled burn will be conducted on the massive White Rock Lake wildfire burning between Kamloops and Vernon.

Another 60 members of the Canadian Armed Forces arrived on Sunday, in addition to 60 members that were already working on the out-of-control blaze.

Additional firefighters from Mexico also arrived over the weekend to battle the Mount Law wildfire just outside of West Kelowna.

There were 233 active wildfires burning across the province as of Monday morning.

“It has been a really intense season for us,” said Berg. “These fires are still burning, we’re not out of the woods, things are slowing but it is still summer, fall is not quite here, so we’ll still be working away.”

According to the B.C. Wildfire Service there are almost 600 out of province personnel currently here working on the wildfires. Berg said with the change in the weather system it has given the team a break and when deployments are up, crews will be able to head home.

“Over the past week it’s been quite a bit cooler than those really extreme temperatures we’ve seen,” she said. “There is the potential for some precipitation to reach the Kamloops fire centre where we see the Skaha Creek wildfire is located, but not enough that will really change things for those larger fires.”

Berg told CTV News Vancouver 10 per cent of wildfires this season have been human caused, 70 per cent are believed to be naturally caused and the remaining 20 per cent are undetermined. Top Stories

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