A fire that broke out south of Oroville near the Canadian border Saturday afternoon had burned over 10,245 acres in northern Washington and about 3,600 acres in British Columbia as of Monday.
On 6 p.m. Sunday, all immediate, or Level 3, evacuations around Oroville were lowered to Level 2, and residents were allowed to return to their homes but told to be prepared to evacuate if necessary.
Roads bordering U.S. Highway 97 that link Oroville and neighboring Osoyoos, British Columbia, have been reopened, though routes through the affected area between Oroville, Nighthawk and Loomis remain closed.
A Northwest incident management team No. 7 was taking command of the fire as of Monday, and the Red Cross shelter set up in Oroville High School was closed because the mandatory evacuations were called off.
Fire information officer Jeffrey Todd commended the Okanagan County Sheriff’s Office for going door to door to ensure there were no residents left in the evacuated areas on Saturday.
Combating the fire include groups from the Bureau of Land Management, Department of Natural Resources, Forest Service, Washington Department of Corrections, Bureau of Indian Affairs tribal fire assets and local fire departments, Todd said.
A request by the state for a fire management assistance grant was granted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Sunday to pay for 75% of the cost to put out the wildfire,” according to a FEMA news release.
The grant’s approval stemmed from concerns of the blaze reaching the town of Oroville, including its airport, and a Canadian high-pressure natural gas pipeline. This grant was the fifth to be approved for Washington state in 2023.
Another $1.2 million will be made available to the state through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program post fire, to be used on preventive measures and in the managing of responses to future wildfires.
North of the border, Canadian firefighters were focusing on the east bank of the fire on the hills above the town of Osoyoos.
The direction of wind had a tremendous impact both in the wildfire’s initial spread north Saturday night, as well as preventing the fire’s spread into the town. Of the 732 homes originally under an evacuation order in the regional district of Okanagan-Similkameen and Osoyoos, 540 have been allowed to return.
A type 1 incident management team, which consists of around a dozen members, is taking charge Tuesday to augment the 50 personnel, 11 pieces of heavy equipment and six helicopters already responding, said Shaelee Stearns, fire information officer for the Kamloops fire center.