Evacuation order downgraded to alert for Testalinden Creek fire; fire 40 per cent contained

By on August 14, 2015
People prepare to evacuate homes along Highway 97 as the Testalinden fire rapidly approached just before 10 p.m. (Richard McGuire photo)

People prepare to evacuate homes along Highway 97 as the Testalinden fire rapidly approached just before 10 p.m. Friday. (Richard McGuire photo)

UPDATE: 5 p.m. Monday: The number of homes covered by the evacuation alert for the Testalinden Creek fire has been increased to 125 from 100. The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) is asking people to stay away from the Mount Kobau uplands between Highway 3 and Fairview Road until the fire is entirely extinguished. See news release and evacuation alert map.

UPDATE: 12:30 p.m. Monday: The evacuation order for the Testalinden Creek fire area has now been removed. Those properties are now placed under an evacuation alert. All residents in the Osoyoos and Oliver areas affected by wildfires can now return home, but should be prepared to evacuate if the fire becomes a greater risk, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) said in a news release.

The RDOS confirms that at least one structure each in both the Testalinden Creek and Wilson’s Mountain fires were damaged by fire.

UPDATE 9:15 a.m. Monday: The fires at Testalinden Creek and is now 40 per cent contained and the fire at Wilson’s Mountain is now 70 per cent contained. The Testalinden fire is estimated at 1,600 hectares and the Wilson’s Mountain fire at 317 hectares. The evacuation order affecting 100 homes as a result of the Testalinden fire remains in effect. As announced Saturday afternoon, the evacuation order at Wilson’s Mountain was downgraded to an evacuation alert.

Sunday’s air support was halted for a number of hours due to somebody illegally operating a drone in the area, which posed a safety threat to firefighters. This had a significant impact on fire suppression efforts, B.C. Wildfire Service said. Eight helicopters and five fixed-wing aircraft that were supporting ground crews were grounded.

Oliver RCMP is investigating and working with B.C. Wildfire Service. All wildfires are considered to be flight restricted. The operation of any aircraft not associated with suppression activities, including unmanned aerial vehicles or drones in this area is illegal.

Wildfires that erupted Friday evening north of Osoyoos and on both sides of Oliver are still burning and covered a larger area on Saturday, but with reduced winds, the fires were less aggressive.

Much of the burn areas are now smouldering ground with minimal open flame.

An evacuation order for a larger fire at Testalinden Creek between Osoyoos and Oliver remains in effect as of 7 p.m. Sunday. See news release. This evacuation order will remain in effect over Sunday night, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) said in a news release issued at 7 p.m. Sunday.

There has been a police presence at Old Richter Pass Road intercepting traffic into Kilpoola Estates. Some residents have been returning at their own risk despite the evacuation order.

Meanwhile smoke is still billowing from areas near Richter Pass and on Mount Kobau above Testalinden Creek. Helicopters and planes have been continuing to battle these areas.

The air attack had to be suspended for part of Sunday due to illegal operation of drones in the fire area. Eight helicopters and five fixed wing aircraft supporting ground crews and water delivery were grounded, which had a significant impact to fire suppression efforts, B.C. Wildfire Service said.

B.C. Wildfire Services has released a map showing the extent of the Testalinden Creek fire (below with photos).

An evacuation order for a fire one kilometre north of Oliver at Wilson’s Mountain Road was downgraded to an evacuation alert as of 3 p.m. Saturday.

In a media release issued at 9 p.m. Saturday, the Wildfire Management Branch reported that significant progress has been made on both fires.

Helicopters were dropping water on a large area of fire west of Highway 97 between Road 22 and Road 11 north of Osoyoos and south of Oliver on Saturday afternoon. They were bucketing water from nearby sloughs and dropping it in the Road 20 area where the fire is closest to the highway and still threatens buildings.

The Testalinden Creek fire was estimated at 1,566 hectares by the B.C. Wildfire Service as of 8:13 p.m. Sunday. The fire is zero per cent contained. As of 8:13 p.m. Sunday, 96 firefighters and six helicopters, four airtankers and five pieces of heavy equipment were deployed in the area. Support at the Testalinden fire was also being provided by the Osoyoos Fire Department and structure protection units are in place. The fire is believe to have been caused by lightning, but the cause is still under investigation.

The fires started in the late afternoon Friday. As powerful winds shifted, blowing from the north, fires spread quickly from Mount Kobau, down the Testalinden Creek valley towards Highway 97. The mountain was lit up in flames that spread quickly down and across the mountain. Winds were so strong that they blew down trees, signs and other standing objects, as they fanned and spread the fire.

The Testalinden fire started in the Testalinden Creek area at higher elevations and then moved to the valley bottom along Highway 97 and spread to Kilpoola Estates at Richter Pass. This wind-driven wildfire burned through grass, sage and open timber, B.C. Wildfire Services said.

One home was burned in the Testalinden fire and two were reported burned in the Wilson’s Mountain fire. Unofficially, knowledgeable sources say the burned home in the Testalinden fire was in the Kilpoola Estates area.

Overnight Friday, 260 homes were evacuated as a result of the Wilson’s Mountain Road fire and 100 homes were evacuated as a result of the Testalinden Creek fire, the RDOS reported. The RDOS issued an updated evacuation order at 1:15 a.m. Saturday listing properties ordered to evacuate in the areas of both fires. Those for the Testalinden fire include a number of streets west of Highway 97 and in the Kilpoola Estates area off Highway 3 west of Osoyoos. As noted, the order for the Wilson’s Mountain Road fire has since been downgraded to an alert, meaning that people can return to their homes, but the fire remains active and they should be prepared to leave again if necessary.

The Wilson’s Mountain Road fire, which still could threaten buildings, was estimated at 317 hectares as of 8:13 p.m. Sunday. The fire is zero per cent contained. There were 29 firefighters and four helicopters and five pieces of heavy equipment were deployed at this fire as of that time.

The RDOS said it started on the south side of Wilson’s Mountain Road and moved south to threaten the town of Oliver. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but it is believed to be human caused.

The fire is smouldering ground with minimal open flame, the Wildfire Management Branch said in its 9 p.m. Saturday news release. Twenty-nine firefighters established guard around portions of the perimeter, where they were supported by four helicopters. Support at the Wilson’s Mountain Road fire was also being provided by the Oliver Fire Department and the RCMP. Suppression efforts continued through Friday night.

An Emergency Social Services Reception Centre was set up by the RDOS at the Oliver Community Centre at 6359 Park DriveTo register by phone call 250-498-4985. People are asked to make sure they are registered so that concerned family members can locate them. A second evacuation centre was set up at the Sonora Community Centre  in Osoyoos Friday night, but it has now closed. Janette Van Vianen, who co-ordinated the reception centre, said about 35 people stayed at group lodging in Oliver Friday night and three at the Sonora Centre in Osoyoos.

On Friday evening, the RDOS opened a Level 2 Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) to assist in co-ordinating the two fires in the near Oliver. The Regional District Emergency Operations Centre can be contacted at 250-492-0237 or toll free 1-877-610-3737.

The EOC closed at 8 p.m. Sunday and will reopen at 8 a.m. on Monday.

Highway 3 between Osoyoos and Keremeos was closed overnight Friday, but reopened late Saturday morning. This is in addition to closures on Thursday of Highway 3 east of Osoyoos in the direction of Rock Creek, which remain in effect. Traffic has continued to flow on Highway 97 throughout the fire.

When the Osoyoos Times visited the area of the Testalinden Creek fire around 10 p.m. Friday, thick smoke reduced visibility. Many drivers were pulled off the road in unsafe locations to observe the fire were creating a traffic hazard and potentially hampering emergency vehicles. Many motorists were bypassing the fire area by using Black Sage Road.

On Friday evening, residents were seen wetting down their roofs at homes along Highway 97 and some people west of the highway appeared to be evacuating.

B.C. Wildfire Service, already busy tacking fires to the east of Osoyoos and elsewhere in the province, is spread thin.

This story will be updated with new information as it becomes available.

RICHARD McGUIRE

Osoyoos Times

A plane flies over the area above Testalinden Creek as sun strikes the smoke from behind. This photo was taken at 6:15 p.m. Sunday. (Richard McGuire photo)

A plane flies over the area above Testalinden Creek as sun strikes the smoke from behind. This photo was taken at 6:15 p.m. Sunday. (Richard McGuire photo)

Smoke continued to blllow from areas on Mount Kobau below the Richter Pass Sunday evening as air attacks resumed. This photo was taken at 5:32 p.m. Sunday. (Richard McGuire photo)

Smoke continued to blllow from areas on Mount Kobau below the Richter Pass Sunday evening as air attacks resumed. This photo was taken at 5:32 p.m. Sunday. (Richard McGuire photo)

Vineyards continue to irrigate along Black Sage Road as fires continue burning above Testalinden Creek in the background. This photo was taken at 6:05 p.m. Sunday. (Richard McGuire photo)

Vineyards continue to irrigate along Black Sage Road as fires continue burning above Testalinden Creek in the background. This photo was taken at 6:05 p.m. Sunday. (Richard McGuire photo)

A helicopter flies over burning hills as it carries water from a slough to the Testalinden Creek fire near Road 20 and Highway 97, just after noon Saturday. (Richard McGuire photo)

A helicopter flies over burning hills as it carries water from a slough to the Testalinden Creek fire near Road 20 and Highway 97, just after noon Saturday. (Richard McGuire photo)

A helicopter drops water from a nearby slough onto the Testalinden Creek fire near Road 20 and Highway 97 just after noon Saturday. (Richard McGuire photo)

A helicopter drops water from a nearby slough onto the Testalinden Creek fire near Road 20 and Highway 97 just after noon Saturday. (Richard McGuire photo)

A helicopter drops water from a nearby slough onto the Testalinden Creek fire near Road 20 and Highway 97 just after noon Saturday. (Richard McGuire photo)

A helicopter drops water from a nearby slough onto the Testalinden Creek fire near Road 20 and Highway 97 just after noon Saturday. (Richard McGuire photo)

A helicopter buckets water onto fire burning down the Testalinden Creek Valley after picking it up at a nearby slough. This photo was taken at 12:10 p.m. Saturday.

A helicopter buckets water onto fire burning down the Testalinden Creek Valley after picking it up at a nearby slough. This photo was taken at 12:10 p.m. Saturday. (Richard McGuire photo)

A helicopter picks up water at a nearby slough to drop on the Testalinden Creek fire near Road 20 and Highway 97. This photo was taken at 12:15 p.m. Saturday. (Richard McGuire photo)

A helicopter picks up water at a nearby slough to drop on the Testalinden Creek fire near Road 20 and Highway 97. This photo was taken at 12:15 p.m. Saturday. (Richard McGuire photo)

Trees burn as intense flames spread down the base of Mount Kobau just south of Testalinden Creek. This photo was taken at 9:46 p.m. Friday. (Richard McGuire photo)

Trees burn as intense flames spread down the base of Mount Kobau just south of Testalinden Creek. This photo was taken at 9:46 p.m. Friday. (Richard McGuire photo)

Massive flames leap up from the hills at the base of Mount Kobau as you approach the Testalinden fire along Highway 97 from the south, just north of Osoyoos. (Richard McGuire photo)

Massive flames leap up from the hills at the base of Mount Kobau as you approach the Testalinden fire along Highway 97 from the south, just north of Osoyoos. (Richard McGuire photo)

An RCMP car hurries southbound on Highway 97 near the Testalinden fire. Traffic was still getting through on the highway despite very thick smoke. (Richard McGuire photo)

An RCMP car hurries southbound on Highway 97 near the Testalinden fire. Traffic was still getting through on the highway despite very thick smoke. (Richard McGuire photo)

Glowing fire and clouds of smoke create an eerie and terrifying scene a short distance from homes at the base of Testalinden Creek's descent of Mount Kobau. This photo was taken at 9:54 p.m. Friday. (Richard McGuire photo)

Glowing fire and clouds of smoke create an eerie and terrifying scene a short distance from homes at the base of Testalinden Creek’s descent of Mount Kobau. This photo was taken at 9:54 p.m. Friday. (Richard McGuire photo)

Many homes were threatened by the advancing Testalinden fire just west of Highway 97. This photo was taken just before 10 p.m. Friday. (Richard McGuire photo)

Many homes were threatened by the advancing Testalinden fire just west of Highway 97. This photo was taken just before 10 p.m. Friday. (Richard McGuire photo)

The Testalinden Creek becomes a river of fire down the side of Mount Kobau in the night skies. This photo was taken at 10:06 p.m. Friday. (Richard McGuire photo)

The Testalinden Creek becomes a river of fire down the side of Mount Kobau in the night skies. This photo was taken at 10:06 p.m. Friday. (Richard McGuire photo)

The side of Mount Kobau is lit up with flames in the Testalinden Creek area in this view from Black Sage Road taken at 10:10 p.m. Friday. (Richard McGuire photo)

The side of Mount Kobau is lit up with flames in the Testalinden Creek area in this view from Black Sage Road taken at 10:10 p.m. Friday. (Richard McGuire photo)

Jack Newton, an astrophotographer, took this photo of the Testalinden Creek fire Friday night from his home and observatory on the side of Anarchist Mountain. (Jack Newton photo)

Jack Newton, an astrophotographer, took this photo of the Testalinden Creek fire Friday night from his home and observatory on the side of Anarchist Mountain. (Jack Newton photo)

Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes became emotional when he thanked firefighters during a news conference on Saturday. Behind him is Mark Woods, from the RDOS, who has been working long hours to co-ordinate the Emergency Operation Centre in Oliver and Rob Graham, spokesperson for the Oliver Fire Department. (Richard McGuire photo)

Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes became emotional when he thanked firefighters during a news conference on Saturday. Behind him is Mark Woods, from the RDOS, who has been working long hours to co-ordinate the Emergency Operation Centre in Oliver and Rob Graham, spokesperson for the Oliver Fire Department. (Richard McGuire photo)

All the remains to the sides of Highway 3 along many parts of the stretch between Spotted Lake and Richter Pass is smouldering, scorched earth. Portions, such as the area in the upper right, did not burn. This photo was taken at 7:42 p.m. Saturday. (Richard McGuire photo)

All the remains to the sides of Highway 3 along many parts of the stretch between Spotted Lake and Richter Pass is smouldering, scorched earth. Portions, such as the area in the upper right, did not burn. This photo was taken at 7:42 p.m. Saturday. (Richard McGuire photo)

testalinden fire map

PRESS RELEASE

PRESS RELEASE

 

Wildfire spreads very quickly just south of Testalinden Creek between Osoyoos and Oliver. This photo was taken around 6:45 p.m. Friday. (Richard McGuire photo)

Wildfire spreads very quickly just south of Testalinden Creek between Osoyoos and Oliver. This photo was taken around 6:45 p.m. Friday. (Richard McGuire photo)

The fire at left started less than a minute before this photo was taken, apparently sparked by some burning material blown down from the fire above. Four minutes later, it had spread over a wide area, pictured in the photo above. (Richard McGuire photo)

The fire at left started less than a minute before this photo was taken, apparently sparked by some burning material blown down from the fire above. Four minutes later, it had spread over a wide area, pictured in the photo above. (Richard McGuire photo)

Men wet down the roof of a house on the east side of Highway 97 as a large fire approaches from the Testalinden Creek. (Richard McGuire photo)

Men wet down the roof of a house on the east side of Highway 97 as a large fire approaches from the Testalinden Creek. (Richard McGuire photo)

A helicopter flies through smoke and powerful winds by the Testalinden fire north of Osoyoos. B.C. Wildfire Service resources are spread thin with numerous fires in the area. This photo was taken at 6:48 p.m. Friday. (Richard McGuire photo)

A helicopter flies through smoke and powerful winds by the Testalinden fire north of Osoyoos. B.C. Wildfire Service resources are spread thin with numerous fires in the area. This photo was taken at 6:48 p.m. Friday. (Richard McGuire photo)

A helicopter flies through smoke and powerful winds by the Testalinden fire north of Osoyoos. B.C. Wildfire Service resources are spread thin with numerous fires in the area. This photo was taken at 7:01 p.m. Friday. (Richard McGuire photo)

A helicopter flies through smoke and powerful winds by the Testalinden fire north of Osoyoos. B.C. Wildfire Service resources are spread thin with numerous fires in the area. This photo was taken at 7:01 p.m. Friday. (Richard McGuire photo)

Fire spreads rapidly down the slopes of Mount Kobau near Testalinden Creek. (Richard McGuire photo)

Fire spreads rapidly down the slopes of Mount Kobau near Testalinden Creek. (Richard McGuire photo)

The Wilson's Mountain fire from the air. (B.C. Wildfire Services)

The Wilson’s Mountain fire from the air. (B.C. Wildfire Services)

This photo taken by B.C. Wildfire Service shows the Testalinden fire from the air on Saturday. The reddish colouring on the ground is fire retardant, dropped to stop the fire from spreading, while the black area on the left was all burned. (B.C. Wildfire Service)

This photo taken by B.C. Wildfire Service shows the Testalinden fire from the air on Saturday. The reddish colouring on the ground is fire retardant, dropped to stop the fire from spreading, while the black area on the left was all burned. (B.C. Wildfire Service)

 

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One Comment

  1. Gordon MacIvor

    August 15, 2015 at 11:22 am

    absolutely stunning Beautyful photos!
    Fine job, Well done.

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