UDPATE 8:15 p.m.
The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen has widened the evacuation alert zone for the Eagle Bluff wildfire to 41 additional properties in the McKinney Creek area.
The RDOS says the decision was made in conjunction with the Osoyoos Indian Band and B.C. Wildfire Service “due to potential changes in weather conditions.”
A full list of impacted properties can be found here.
The RDOS is asking motorists travelling through the fire zone to avoid stopping on Highway 97 to take photos of the scene.
An evening update from the B.C. Wildfire Service including a new size estimate is still expected.
UDPATE 5:30 p.m.
The B.C. Wildfire Service says planned ignitions today at the Eagle Bluff wildfire at Gallagher Lake were “extremely successful,” although it’s expected the blaze will continue to grow in the coming days.
Fire information officer Nicole Bonnet said the fire is still mapped at 900 hectares, although that number will likely grow at the end of the day.
“The ignition was extremely successful and crews remain on site in extremely warm dry conditions,” she said. “Putting in a lot of good, hard, extremely sweaty work.”
She said expected growth of the fire in the next couple days “might not necessarily be a bad thing.”
“In some of the areas it will bring the fire into terrain that is more operable and safer for our ground crews and heavy equipment,” she said, adding it would also open up flight lines for the numerous aircraft attacking the fire.
Evacuation alerts remain in place for more than 200 properties in Gallagher Lake and north of Oliver on Osoyoos Indian Band land, including Jackson Triggs and the Okanagan Correctional Centre.
UPDATE: 2:10 p.m.
Okanagan Correctional Centre has relocated more than 100 inmates due to the Eagle Bluff wildfire, according to Oliver Daily News.
A total of 394 inmates are currently serving time or are on remand from the facility.
ODN reports that most of the inmates moved are women.
UPDATE: 1:10 p.m.
A 900-hectare blaze continues to burn near Okanagan Correctional Centre, which is on evacuation alert and which has sheriffs ready to evacuate the inmates if need be.
“The safety of both inmates and staff is our top priority. The OCC management team has planned for the eventuality that they may have to evacuate. Sheriff transportation has been arranged for inmates,” said Caroline McAndrews, communications director.
She said no further details could be given due to a policy of not sharing “details of our business continuity plans and transfers.”
The Eagle Bluff fire currently has 80 personnel battling it, including helicopters, air tankers and heavy equipment as needed. Over 200 properties are on evacuation alert, and calculated burns are underway to keep structures safe.
“A lot of the fire right now is in kind of inoperable ground, it’s in steep areas where we can’t safely put crews. So as it grows, it actually puts in areas that are safer for crews,” said fire information officer Shannon Street. “So some growth is not necessarily a bad thing.”
BC Wildfire crews are letting some areas burn strategically.
“The fire is backing its way down the hill,” said Andre Chalabi, operations section chief. “We’re just letting the fire come down the hill, and as the fire gets close to that control line, we go out and do some hand ignition, to bring the fire under control on our own terms.”
Street said they expect 20 firefighters to remain on the blaze overnight.
UPDATE: 8:44 a.m.
The Okanagan Correctional Centre falls within the boundaries of the latest evacuation alert issued due to the Eagle Bluff wildfire.
Media spokesperson Alicia Bertrand tells Castanet: “We have planning in place for events such as this, for floods and fires. We’ve been preparing since the weekend and have plans in place.”
The correctional centre is holding a briefing right now.
We’ll have more information as soon as it becomes available.
ORIGINAL: 7:54 a.m.
An evacuation alert for the Eagle Bluff wildfire has been expanded by the Osoyoos Indian Band to include the Senkulmen Business Park in Oliver.
The Eagle Bluff fire has also been upgraded significantly in size overnight.
The wildfire is now listed at 900 hectares. The BC Wildfire Service says the jump is largely due to better mapping yesterday evening, but the fire did see some growth overnight due to the topography of the area.
Fire crews plan on using small-scale hand ignition operations for today on the southern edge of Gallagher Lake to remove combustible fuels between the community and the fire perimeter. Increased smoke will be visible from nearby communities as a result.
-with files from Chelsea Powrie and Rob Gibson