‘Certain panic’: Hundreds of tourists flee Osoyoos campsite and resort as forest fires encroach

Melissa Hill was on vacation at the popular Nk’Mip Campground and RV Resort in Osoyoos, B.C. with her family when they were awakened in the middle of the night by a security guard advising the family to flee the area due to a rapid forest fire. .

“Certain panic. We have two children of our own. We have a friend of my son’s who stays with us so we have someone else’s child with us so it was stressful, ”Hill told Global News.

Hill said the Nk’Mip Creek wildfire, which started around 4 p.m. and quickly exploded near the northeast side of Osoyoos Lake, was highly visible to the community.

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“We could see it going up over the hill and it was huge clouds of smoke, puffy clouds,” she said.

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“We sat there for hours and watched the bombers and helicopters put it out.”

Mike Campol, director of operations for the Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB), said the winds had turned in the middle of the night, pushing the fire eastward, towards populated areas.

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The OIB, in consultation with the BC Wildfire Service and local authorities, decided to evacuate approximately 600 to 700 people from the campground and several hundred more from the Spirit Ridge Resort early Tuesday morning.

“It was a concern yesterday afternoon and last night, but in the middle of the night the wind changed and sent the fire east in our direction which changed the dynamics,” said Campol.

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“All resources have been mobilized, all hands on deck this morning to clean up these areas. “

The wildfire burns about a mile from the campground and resort, he said.

In the meantime, the Osoyoos Indian Band has issued a evacuation order for nearly 200 properties on reserve land, including the band office.

Campol said evacuees were struggling to find temporary accommodation as hotels and motels were full – at the height of this year’s tourist season.

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“There aren’t a lot of occupations this time of year, but as usual in the South Okanagan, communities have intensified, other groups have intensified and there were offers via social media on accommodation, places to stay. The Lower Similkameen Indian Band, the Penticton Indian Band and the locals in that area have all come together, ”he said.

Evacuees are directed to the ESS Reception Center at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 97, 36217 Main Street, Oliver.

Sixty other properties in the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District were placed under evacuation order, and the town of Oliver issued a evacuation alert for a handful of properties within its purview.

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Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie credits Oliver’s fire department for their excellent work in preventing the loss of homes.

The Nk’Mip Creek wildfire spread to 1,100 hectares of area and burns out of control.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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