Alexandra Pope, staff writer
September 7, 2011 — 550 people forced to leave their homes and campsites near Kelowna due to a wildfire have been allowed to go home -- but must be ready to leave again at a moment's notice.
The fire broke out Monday night in a canyon near Bear Creek Provincial Park and quickly spread, forcing 300 campers to evacuate.
Residents of the small community of Trader's Cove were also forced to leave their homes.
Mary-Ann Leach, a provincial fire information officer, said the fire was most likely human-caused, although an exact cause has yet to be determined.
By Tuesday, the fire had spread to nearly 40 hectares. Thick smoke is making it difficult for crews to battle hot spots.
“We have managed to get some air tanker drops on it,” Leach said. “We also have four helicopters bucketing in the area and helping ground crews as they begin the process of constructing fire guards.”
The fire came close to some outbuildings of the provincial park, but so far no structures have been burned, said Kirsten Jones, a public information officer with the City of Kelowna, which oversaw the evacuation.
The evacuation order was rescinded on Tuesday evening, but residents may have to leave again at a moment's notice.
“We're watching ... for winds that we're told may pick up,” Jones said. “That's something we're definitely paying attention to.”
The Ministry of Environment has issued a smoke advisory for the central Okanagan, including Kelowna, and is cautioning residents to avoid strenuous outdoor activity. Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions are especially vulnerable to the effects of smoke inhalation.
This has been a relatively quiet fire season for southern B.C.
The Kamloops fire area, which includes Bear Creek Park, has seen 216 fires so far this year, compared to the 10-year average of 519 fires.
However, warm, dry and windy conditions are expected to persist over the coming weeks, which could spark more fires. Open burn bans are in effect in some areas.
Visit The Weather Network's Forest Fire Watch to stay up to date on current fire conditions.
With files from Andrea Stockton