NEWS

B.C. evacuation order for Big Bar Creek residents downgraded

08/22/2012 11:15 EDT | Updated 10/22/2012 05:12 EDT
An evacuation order affecting about 200 residents of the Big Bar Creek area has been downgraded to an evacuation alert, even though the fire grew to cover about four square kilometers overnight.

The residents of about 50 homes in the rural community of Big Bar Creek, located 40 kilometres west of Clinton, were told to get out of their homes after the wildfire broke out on Tuesday afternoon.

As of Wednesday morning the fire was still uncontained, and the original home and one other structure near it had been destroyed. No other buildings are under immediate threat, but local roads are affected, according to officials.

"Last night the fire remained active on valley slopes. The fire did cross the Big Bar Road, creating a spot fire about five hectares in size on the west side of the road. This spot fire was guarded by retardant yesterday evening," said a statement issued by the Wildfire Management Branch.

"This fire may impact traffic to the Big Bar Ferry and has burned up to the Big Bar Road. Smoke will be visible to residents in Clinton and surrounding areas," according to the B.C. Wildfire website.

Four helicopters, heavy equipment and as many as 120 firefighters were battling the blaze as of Wednesday morning.

Residents returning to the affected areas are advised to have a full tank of gas in their vehicles, enough food and water for two days and any medications they require.

Residents resist orders to leave

Fire officials said earlier reports that the fire started with a house fire were incorrect and officials have yet to determine the cause of the blaze.

After the fire broke out Thompson Nicola Regional District to declare a local state of emergency and fire officials started a tactical evacuation, asking residents of about a dozen homes to leave on Tuesday evening.

"Residents that live along Big Bar Road all the way up to the Jesmond Road Crossing are being asked to leave the area and to check in at the Community Hall in Clinton," said a statement on the B.C. Wildfire website.

But district spokeswoman Liz Cornwell says despite the evacuation order, only two or three of the families appeared to have left the area on Tuesday night.

"We strongly encourage them to go. We're asking them to go. The RCMP did in fact go door-to-door and asked them to leave, and in the end the RCMP can't force them to leave their homes," said Cornwell.

The evacuation area was then expanded on Wednesday morning to include about 50 homes before it was downgraded around noon.

Crews battle 'aggressive' fire near Oyama

The Big Bar Creek fire was one of about 50 significant wildfires listed on the B.C. Wildfire website on Wednesday.

An aggressive fire is also burning in the central Okanagan, seven kilometres east of Oyama between Oyama Lake and Beaver Lake.

Fire information officer Michaela Swan said the 3.5 hectare fire erupted at about 5 a.m. PT Wednesday, and crews have been able to slow its progress.

"The fire is burning quite aggressively. It's burning in slash, so we're calling it a rank 4 fire. We're seeing pretty high spread rates right now from one hectare to 3.5 hectares in the last hour. So we're hitting hard this morning, and hoping for the best," said Swan

She says the nearest buildings are 800 meters from the flames, but there's no immediate threat to those structures.

The fire was likely caused by a lightening strike Tuesday night, when the area was under a severe thunderstorm watch.

Vernon fire under control

In Vernon, fire officials say a spark from a power line may have caused a grass fire west of the landfill Tuesday.

The blaze only grew to about two hectares thanks to the efforts of about 40 firefighters and a helicopter.

Vernon fire Chief Keith Green said workers at the landfill heard a loud bang, and noticed a blown fuse and a loss of power just before the fire started.

Fire officials say the number of wildfires recorded this year is below the seasonal average, but the fire danger ratings for large areas of the province remain extreme or high.

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