UPDATE: Princeton fire holds at 1,500 hectares

The Princeton wildfire has grown to 1,500 hectares and structures have been lost

UPDATE: 9 p.m.

The BC Wildfire Service says the Princeton wildfire is estimated at 1,500 hectares as of Saturday evening at 9 p.m.

A total of 60 firefighters, two helicopters, heavy equipment and support personnel were fighting the blaze today.

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UPDATE: 4:30 p.m.

The number of homes surrounding Princeton on evacuation alert more than doubled today at 4:30 p.m. when the affected area was expanded to include Jura, Erris and Jellico, as well as Missezula Lake, which was put on notice Friday.

There are now 428 homes under evacuation alert.

Sixty homes in total have already been evacuated.

The new alert advisory includes all homes north and east of the junction of Hembrie Mountain Rd and Princeton Summerland Road along Princeton Summerland Road to Shinish Creek Road just south of Chain Lake. This includes all homes on Hembrie Mountain Road, Pinewood Drive and Siwash Road.

Steve Sweeney, who works for the Regional District Operations Centre, said the alert was expanded at the request of the local fire chief.

“It’s a precautionary warning if the winds pick up.”

A spokesperson for the BC Wildfire Service was not immediately available to comment, but Sweeney said: “from my understanding the fire right now is still very active but it’s not moving aggressively.”

The lack of wind is also accounting for increased smoke in the area, he said. “The winds are nowhere near what they were yesterday and that’s why the smoke is settling in.”

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UPDATE: 2:20 p.m.

No homes are believed to be lost at this time in the 2,000-hectare forest fire burning out of control 10 kilometers north of Princeton.

Princeton mayor Frank Armitage told The Spotlight this afternoon that several outbuildings and “one major barn” have been destroyed.

“At this point we are very relieved that there have not been any reports of homes destroyed,” he said.

Approximately 100 firefighters and three helicopters are currently working to control the blaze.

For a gallery of reader photos on the fire click here. For information on the Smoky Skies Advisory issued for the Cariboo, Thompson, Shuswap, Okanagan, Similkameen, Fraser Canyon and Nicola region click here.

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UPDATE: 11:30 a.m.

The forest fire burning out of control 10 km north of Princeton has reached an estimated 2,000 hectares in size, according to George Elliott, communications officer for the Princeton Volunteer Fire Department,

An additional 40 firefighters arrived on the scene this morning, bringing the number of professionals battling the blaze from the ground and air to approximately 100,

Elliott confirmed that structures have been burned, but could not comment on how many homes or buildings have been destroyed.

So far there are no injuries, he said.

The current strategy of BC Wildfire Management is to attack the fire from the north and southern flanks, said Elliott.

Evacuation orders issued yesterday for 54 homes between Summer Creek Road and Dry Lake remain in effect and while local motels are full, many people have come forward offering places for evacuees to stay.

“We’ve been able to find some rooms and we have a list of people who have offered [to billet].”

Another updated is expected at 8 p.m.

For a gallery of reader photos on the fire click here. For information on the Smoky Skies Advisory issued for the Cariboo, Thompson, Shuswap, Okanagan, Similkameen, Fraser Canyon and Nicola region click here.

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UPDATE: 11 a.m.

BC Wildfire Service fire information officer Tracy Wynnyk confirms the Princeton fire is currently estimated at 1,500 hectares.

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UPDATE: 10 a.m.

Bill Davies stood in his backyard yesterday afternoon and watched the fire come to him.

“When I first saw it I thought ‘what’s someone burning this time of year?’”

He said he assumed someone was burning garbage or debris but within minutes “it was out of control.”

Davies, who lives with his wife on Seven Mile Road, used every minute until he was evacuated to remove valuables from his home, and then he used his phone to shoot a video of other belongings for insurance purposes.

The couple left the property, which quickly became a command center for forest fire crews, at about 2 p.m.

“The fire was all around us,” he said.

By evening the fire north of Princeton was estimated at 200 hectares and declared out-of-control by BC Wildfire Management. Overnight it grew to 1,500 hectares.

Fifty-four families in the area have been evacuated.

Davies said he received a report from the Princeton Volunteer Fire Saturday morning that his home of 22 years is still standing.

He is staying in Princeton with his sister.

Phil Nielsen, another Seven Mile Road resident, was on holidays when he learned of the fire threatening his home.

“We just turned around and came right back.”

At 11 p.m. Friday he was allowed behind police barriers to return to his house long enough to rescue the family’s cat and dog.

The Nielson’s Fifth Wheel trailer is currently parked at the Riverside Centre in Princeton, which has been set up an evacuation center.

For a gallery of reader photos on the fire click here. For information on the Smoky Skies Advisory issued for the Cariboo, Thompson, Shuswap, Okanagan, Similkameen, Fraser Canyon and Nicola region click here.

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ORIGINAL:

The fire just north of Princeton has grown to 1,500 hectares as of 7:30 a.m. Saturday.

Thirty-four properties between Summer Creek Road and Dry Lake on Highway 5A were evacuated on Friday.

Those residences include a children’s camp, Camp Tulahead. Dozens of young people were bused to Merritt, as the road to Princeton was closed, and officials said everyone is safely accounted for.

The community of Missezula Lake, at the end of Summers Creek Road, has been placed on advisory evacuation alert. Residents there are being advised to shelter in place.

An update is expected at 8 a.m.

More to come.