A fire attack helicopter dumps a load of water on the Testalinden Creek fire

UPDATED: RDOS upgrades alerts to fire evacuation orders

After expanding the evacuation alert area earlier today, the RDOS has upgraded some areas of rural Oliver to an evacuation order.

Update: The recreational areas around Burnell (Sawmill) Lake, Ripley Lake and Madden Lake, to the west of Oliver, BC, have been placed within an expanded Evacuation Order issued earlier today. The Regional District is asking that people stay away from all Crown Land areas south of Orofino Creek Road in the Burnell (Sawmill) Lake, Ripley Lake and Madden Lake areas.

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After expanding the evacuation alert area earlier today (Aug. 28) the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen has upgraded some areas of rural Oliver to an evacuation order due to the Testalinden Creek wildfire.

The evacuation order is in effect for: properties along Fairview Road; properties at 1057 Old Golf Course Road; properties along Willowbrook Road and areas of provincial Crown Lands including the Burnell (Sawmill) Lake area.

Full details of the evacuation order are available online at EmergencyInfoBC.

Despite an expanded evacuation alert area for the Testalinden Creek fire, Sandra Oldfield says it’s business as usual at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards.

“It hasn’t yet crested the fold in the mountainside for us to see it above our winery. We see the smoke, but we don’t see the fire itself,” said Oldfield, winemaker and owner of the winery.

Due to the potential of increased winds and wildfire growth in the uplands of Kobau Mountain, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen expanded the evacuation alert for the Testalinden Creek fire area northwards this morning. Properties along Tinhorn Creek, Old Golf Course Road, West Avenue, Cellar Road, Chokecherry Lane, the west side of Sumac Street and portions of Fairview Road and Willowbrook Road are now under evacuation alert.

The Regional District asks residents within the evacuation alert area to be prepared to evacuate if required. Residents in these areas will be contacted informing them of steps to take to prepare for potential evacuation. The total number of homes or properties placed under evacuation alert due to the Testalinden Creek Wildfire is now 285.

Four properties falling under this expanded Testalinden Creek evacuation alert were recently evacuated due to the Wilsons Mountain Fire. The Wilsons Mountain Fire evacuation alert was rescinded earlier this week.

According to the BC Wildfire Service, the Testalinden fire is considered 60 per cent contained, covering an estimated 3,170 hectares.

Shifting winds have increased activity on the fire this evening and smoke with open flame is visible from Oliver and along Highway 97, as combustible material burns on the slopes around Testalinden and Hester Creeks. Due to gusty winds Wednesday night the NW flank has progressed north to the head of Tinhorn Creek. BC Wildfire Service personnel continue their efforts around the clock using heavy equipment, air support and all available resources on this NW flank.

Oldfield, who was preparing to meet a tour group when she spoke to the Western News, said Tinhorn and other wineries in the area remain open for visitors have even begun picking grapes, about 2.5 weeks ahead of usual, thanks to this summer’s weather.

“There is a natural stoppage for this fire as it starts hitting properties,” said Oldfield, listing green vineyards, irrigation, roadways around the properties and natural breaks in the terrain.

“For me, I think the likelihood is low that we will have any immediate problems with the fire. On the other side of things, both the fire department and our winery are really well prepared,” said Oldfield, who isn’t taking the danger casually.

“If I sound calm, it is because we have rehearsed this a lot. At Tinhorn, we have a super rigorous health and safety program. We have been rehearsing evacuations off our property twice a year for the last five years,” said Oldfield, adding that the winery has received top honours from Worksafe B.C. for its programs.

“All of our employees are familiar with how to evacuate and how to evacuate customers. It is something we practice all the time,” she said.

The fire department also visits regularly to ensure that preparations have been made, like cutting back weeds and having water connections available.

“They’ve taken a look at rooftops, cedars and all the rest. They have been doing this for two or three days now on the property. It is just a wild amount of preparation,” said Oldfield.

Southerly winds are shifting aiding in lifting of the heavy smoke from the Washington fires. This will allow increase use of air support and assist with fire fighting efforts. Eleven helicopters and 204 personnel continue to work towards establishing containment.

Residents and agriculturists along the Crown Land interface are advised to water interface areas up to 3 hours each day. Residents and agriculturists outside the evacuation alert area within the Oliver area are asked to conserve water as much as possible to ensure water is available for firefighting.

Anyone with health concerns related to smoke can visit www.interiorhealth.ca or call 8-1-1 for Health Link BC.

Upon notification of an alert, residents should be prepared for the evacuation order by:

 

  • Locating all family members or co-workers and designate a Reception Centre outside the evacuation area, should an evacuation be called while separated.
  • Gathering essential items such as medications, eyeglasses, valuable papers (i.e. insurance), immediate care needs for dependents and, if you choose, keepsakes (photographs, etc.). Have these items readily available for quick departure.
  • Preparing to move any disabled persons and/or children.
  • Making arrangements to move pets and livestock to a safe area.
  • Arranging accommodation for your family if possible. In the event of an evacuation, reception centres will be opened if required.

 

Information on the alert is posted at: http://www.rdos.bc.ca, call 250-492-0237 or toll-free 1-877-610-3737.

 

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