The grass fire burning east of Sun Rivers and visible throughout Kamloops is now estimated to be 200 hectares in size.
"We will have crews on site overnight," said BC Wildfire Service fire information officer Marla Catherall. "There are structures in the area, but no structures are threatened at this time."
Early reports indicated the fire was moving uphill away from residences, but was spreading quickly. Videos posted on social media show the fire burning uphill and to the west, initially.
"The winds are pushing east, so it is highly visible in the community," Catherall said.
The call came in around 11:45 a.m. Thursday for a grass fire behind residences at 830 Shuswap Rd.
Fire crews said they could see smoke en route to the fire and there were reports of one residence threatened.
Wildfire crews were called out around noon as ground crews reported the fire had crested the hill behind the residences. Kamloops Fire Rescue was told that wildfire service air crews would respond as soon as possible and a five-person team arrived on scene around 12:30 p.m.
BC Wildfire Service says it has 49 firefighters, multiple airtankers, one helicopter and fire investigators responding to the fire.
Kamloops RCMP has closed Shuswap Road from Lafarge west to the Yellowhead Highway until further notice. No traffic except emergency vehicles will be allowed in this area.
RCMP said no structures have been damaged or injuries reported from the fire, but ambulance crews are on standby in the area.
Mel Seymour lives at 820 Shuswap Rd. and had come home for lunch when the fire started.
“I was just home five minutes. Walked in. Turned on the news, they said, ‘Oh, fire. East Shuswap.’ I looked out the window, it’s right on my land!’”
While he did not see what started the fire, Seymour said it took off quickly, with help from the wind. He noted the blaze was burning toward open grasslands on the bench above his house.
“If that fire gets into that grass, it’ll run,” he said. “Right down here it’s sage, you see it? That’s why it’s burning really good. Because sage just goes up like nothing. It’s pretty tall sage, too.”
Another resident in the area who lives in the Sage Meadows Trail mobile home park was packing up and leaving around 1:45 p.m. He said the fire was half a mile to a mile away from his home.
At around 1 p.m. wildfire service air tankers could be seen dropping retardant on the blaze.
Sun Rivers sent a notice to all residents just after 1 p.m. saying that the Tk'emlups Indian Band has issued a wildfire alert for properties along Shuswap Road.
Sun Rivers resident Mike Bielby said he could see flames from the parking lot of the Talasa apartments, where a group had gathered Thursday afternoon.
“You definitely see flames creeping up the mountain side,” he told KTW from the scene, noting flames along the front side of Mt. Peter.
Bielby said the flames were still kilometres from the resort community but the experience was “unnerving.” He had not packed bags nor been evacuated when he spoke to KTW but said he has mentally prepared a list of items he would grab.
CORIX Utilities, the company that handles irrigation for the Big Horn Golf Course, confirmed to KTW it would activate its irrigation systems as a buffer between the fire and the community as a preventative measure.
Assistant Fire Chief Steve Robinson said Tk’emlups te Secwepemc has set up an evacuation centre at Sk’elep Secwepemc School, located at 365 Powwow Trail, which is available to anyone displaced by the fire. While he could provide no exact number of residents evacuated, he said a trailer park on Shuswap Road was issued an evacuation order.
The evacuation centre was opened at 3 p.m. and as of 3:30 p.m. was awaiting its first evacuee. Water and air conditioning is available for those who attend.