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Update: Highway 97 reopens to single-lane traffic
Update: 5:36 p.m.
DriveBC reports Highway 97 has reopened to single-lane, alternating traffic. Expected to fully reopen by 7 p.m.
Update: 4:51 p.m.
Western News reporter Kristi Patton says emergency personnel appear to be detouring people, turning them back towards Okanagan Falls. The DriveBC website says the highway is closed in both directions 11 kilometres north of Oliver at Braun Road to 8 km north of Oliver (3 km) at Gallagher Lake Road because of forest fire The next update is due at 6 p.m.
Witness Bev Gatto told Patton she was heading south to Osoyoos when she got stuck in the she and other drivers were stopped about a kilometre north of the Gallagher Lake campgrounds.
“I could see smoke and first I thought maybe there was a lumber mill up here. As I got closer I could see red smoke and knew it was a forest fire,” Gatto said.
“I was buying fruit while I was waiting and a few of the ashes were starting to fall but they were drifting down like snow."
Update: 4:22 p.m.
Fire information officer Michaela Swan says air tankers were able to quickly knock down the blaze to a 1.5-hectare "smoldering grass fire."
Forest service firefighters will remain on the scene to assist Oliver Fire Department.
No evacuation alerts or orders were triggered by the blaze, according to Dale Kronebusch, the emergency services supervisor for the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.
He said firefighters "seem to have gotten a pretty good handle on" the fire.
A wildfire in the South Okanagan has prompted the closure of Highway 97.
The road is closed in both directions north of Oliver from Braun Road to Gallagher Lake Road. No detour is available.
The two-hectare fire is burning “quite aggressively in open grass, sage and some timber,” said Michaela Swan, an information officer for the B.C. Forest Service’s Wildfire Management Branch.
An air tanker and helicopters have been dispatched.
Swan said the blaze, first reported at 3 p.m. about one kilometre south of Vaseux Lake, was within one kilometre of a home, but no evacuation orders have been issued.
She said the branch is assisting the Oliver Fire Department.
The Western News has a reporter on the way to the scene. Check back for updates.