nmates at the Okanagan Correctional Centre north of Oliver are being transferred to other jails as a precaution due to the 900-hectare Eagle Bluff wildfire that’s now burning within a few hundred meters of the jail.
“Things did escalate (Tuesday) night to an evacuation alert,” said Alicia Bertrand, media liaison for the jail.
“In order to prepare for that alert, we started to transfer some folks just in case we do end up getting the requirement to transfer everybody”.
The decision to transfer inmates to Lower Mainland facilities is based on a business continuity plan in place for “all of our centres,” said Bertrand.
“We tend to put (inmate) way out of the fire zone,” she explained. “It’s unlikely that we would go up to Prince George or to Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre, our closest one nearby.
“We would be thinking long-term; evacuation alerts can last more than a week.”
The evacuation alert issued by the Osoyoos Indian Band, which owns the business park on which the jail is built, came to the facility around late Tuesday.
“We had already been considering this on the weekend. As soon as the fire got even remotely close, we started to put plans in place.”
The near-tripling of the Eagle Bluff fire from a day earlier was attributed to more accurate mapping and “some growth overnight as a result of the topography of the area,” the B.C. Wildfire Service said on its website.
An incident management team is overseeing 80 personnel on the ground, plus eight helicopters and air tankers in the sky. A structure protection unit has also been deployed as a precaution.
A separate evacuation alert remains in place for 42 land parcels in the area that comprise 206 properties, many of them campsites at Gallagher Lake.
Affected properties are on Highway 97, McIntyre Creek Road, Brauns Road, Sundial Road, Gallagher Lake Road, Enterprise Way, James Way and Manuels Canyon Road, but not nearby Tucelnuit Drive.
“We do have crews at the base of the slope there right now and they’re prepping for some small-scale controlled ignitions a little bit later this morning and early this afternoon,” said B.C. Wildfire Service spokeswoman Nicole Bonnett.
“That will be to remove the combustible fuels between the valley bottom and the fire perimeter.”
The fire sparked Sunday night in the Gallagher Lake area approximately halfway between Oliver and Okanagan Falls on the east side of Highway 97.
The cause is still under investigation. FortisBC, which has high-voltage transmission lines and a substation in the fire zone, has said its equipment is not responsible for the fire.