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One year since the worst wildfire in South Okanagan

Nk’Mip wildfire raged for over a month, forcing evacuations, losses of livestock and some homes

One year ago, today, July 19, the Nk’Mip wildfire erupted on Inkameep Road, six kilometres north of Osoyoos Lake. It exploded in size to 700 hectares in just one day.

The human-caused fire spread rapidly and eventually burned down several structures and vehicles, killing some pets and livestock and causing hundreds to be evacuated, some for weeks.

The aggressive fire grew to 2,000 ha by July 20 while air tankers and helicopters dropped retardant and water on the volatile blaze.

The Town of Osoyoos declared a state of local emergency and established an Emergency Operations Centre.

By the second night, hundreds of campers and guests were woken up in the middle of the night and evacuated out of the Nk’Mip RV Park and Spirit Ridge Resort in Osoyoos. Many ended up in the Buy Low parking lot, living out of their RVs.

The Residences complex beside Spirit Ridge were also evacuated. Several wineries in the area including Burrowing Owl also evacuated their guests with some moving to the Penticton Lakeside Resort.

Fire crews managed to create a guard line, saving the hotel, homes and the Desert Cultural Centre from burning. Burn marks wrap around the Sonora Dunes golf course and touch down to the backyards of the Residences.

Evacuated tourists waited in limbo whether to go home or stick it out with their many RVs taking up residence at a grocery store parking lot. Visitors with bookings in Osoyoos were told to cancel and leave hotel rooms for evacuees.

READ MORE: Campers evacuated in the middle of the night

Over 90 expert firefighters flew in from Mexico to help fight the out-of-control blaze that then started to climb Anarchist Mountain forcing dozens of residents to flee from their homes. Anarchist Mountain fire crews worked 14 to 20-hour shifts well into the night fighting dangerous unpredictable fire activity.

Since the Nk’Mip fire, Anarchist Mountain welcomed its first fire hydrant.

Residents in the area also held several volunteer fire smart days where they cleared fire fuel like dry brush and branches away.

Fire crews from Fort St. John, the Osoyoos Indian Band, Vanderbrook, Errington and local firefighters have been together non-stop since the Nk’Mip fire started.

Then the fire shifted over to the Mount Baldy Ski Resort area forcing evacuations of residents there.

Those property owners, along with numerous residents on Osoyoos Indian Band land were out of their homes for weeks.

Many of their pets and livestock were living at the Desert Park Centre in Osoyoos being taken care of by the dedicated volunteers at ALERT.

By Aug. 3, embers and ash were falling from the sky all over South Okanagan and as far as Penticton and Summerland.

READ MORE: Embers falling from blackened sky

The volatile fire just kept growing, strengthened by relentless winds that would come at night.

By Aug. 24, the fire was over 20,000 hectares but hard work by the dozens of firefighters on the ground setting containment lines everywhere and getting rid of fuel for the fire allowed Baldy residents to go home after nearly three weeks away.

At the beginning of September, more than a month and a half after the beast of a blaze started, BC Wildfire announced that finally Nk’Mip fire had been held and is no longer a fire of note. Remarkably, no lives were lost.

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Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
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