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Testalinden Alert expands again; crews battle fires throughout region

OLIVER – The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) is predicting more fire activity in the Testalinden Creek Wildfire burning south of Oliver, forcing an expansion of the Evacuation Alert for the area.

“We can grab our dogs and be out the door if we have to,” says Oliver Resident Lee Pratt, who lives on one of 50 properties that were added to the existing Evacuation Alert on Friday.

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“We came home to finding out we are on Evacuation Alert and we are wondering why, because it seemed like the worst had passed,” says Pratt.

The RDOS says the alert was expanded due to wind gusts and extremely dry conditions, causing concern that the wildfire would spread.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Testalinden Creek wildfire grows to 2,500 hectares due to strategic burns

It’s left some residents on edge.

“To see it just be at the crest of the ridge, it doesn’t really take much to come down. Everybody’s just been in a tense mode all the way through,” says Walter Gehringer, owner of Gehringer Brothers’ Estate Winery.

The RDOS says increased fire activity is expected over the next few days and again expanded the Evacuation Alert on Saturday to include 15 more properties south of Road 7 and Tinhorn Creek Road west of Highway 97.

“There’s wind and the wind direction, we don’t have any control over that and sometimes it curves around the mountain and into the gully’s…that’s what makes it tougher to try and predict this or where it’s going to go,” says Dale Kronebusch,

Emergency Services Supervisor, RDOS.

READ MORE: Testalinden wildfire near Oliver now 50% contained

The Testalinden wildfire is estimated to be 3,100 hectares and the B.C. Wildfire Service says it has been growing to the north.

“It crossed containment lines previously established on the north side of Testalinden Creek due to the cold front and winds which came through on August 20,” says Fire Information Officer Heather Rice in a statement.

The RDOS says it doesn’t expect the wildfire to impact homes.

Meanwhile, 260 properties are still on Evacuation Alert due to the Wilsons Mountain Fire burning north of Oliver. That blaze is 100 per cent contained and estimated to be 317 hectares.

In the Kootenay-Boundary area, the Rock Creek wildfire is estimated to be 4,534 hectares and is 50 per cent contained.

There has been some good news in the last 24 hours – Highway 33 between Rock Creek and Beaverdell reopened Friday evening. The section had been closed for eight days due to the Rock Creek wildfire.

Further south in the U.S., the Stickpin fire in Washington State is burning four and half kilometres from Canadian soil. The B.C. Wildfire Service is now coordinating with American firefighters to help battle the 16,830 hectare blaze. Structural protection crews are using sprinklers on our side of the border to help protect properties.

READ MORE: Washington state blaze threatens B.C.

The Stickpin fire is 50 per cent contained.

~ With files from Simon Little