The Diamond Creek Fire that started in the US and crossed into Canada sometime over the last 24 hours is growing at a rapid rate.
The Canadian portion of the fire has grown to more than 1,700 hectares in size since nightfall Tuesday.
The fire is burning about 17 kilometres northeast of East Gate in Manning Park and 50 kilometres southwest of Keremeos.
“BC Wildfire Service is currently assessing what values are threatened and are currently assessing how to tackle this,” said Justine Hunse, fire officer for BC Wildfire Service.
As a precautionary measure the province has ordered the closure and evacuation of Cathedral Provincial Park near Keremeos.
The Diamond Creek Fire started July 23 and has consumed more than 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres)of Pasayten Wilderness in Washington State. The fire has been deemed to be human caused.
Glenda Patterson, owner of the Cathedral Lakes Lodge located in the provincial park said she was told about the closure and evacuation order around 9 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Her staff has been working to evacuate the park since.
“BC Parks and the people who are contracted to run the park were all over the trails today finding people and telling them they had to leave,” Patterson said. “This is very much a precautionary measure. We don’t want people panicking thinking the lodge is burning down.”
People started coming down from the park at about 12 p.m.
Patterson estimated there was about 60 people in the park at the time of the evacuation including campers at the provincial park, guests and staff of the lodge.
The lodge has rights to the main road up to Cathedral Provincial Park. The only way up by car is in one of the lodge’s vehicles. The lodge keeps track of all people that get a ride into the park.
Patterson said she did not know if anyone hiked up into the park recently.
“We’re grateful they gave notice on the Wednesday and not the Friday of the long weekend,” she said. “We’re very happy to evacuate campers and guests in an orderly way.”
She guessed the remaining staff at the lodge and campground would be down by 6 p.m.
Patterson said the closure is a big hit to her business which was already experiencing a significant decrease in guests because of the wildfires burning around the province.
About 28 guests were booked at the lodge for the long weekend and more than 40 campers were expected at the campground.
“We didn’t think we would have an August like this but people just stopped coming to the Interior. It’s been slow. I think anyone that is running a tourist operation in the Interior would say that to you,” she said.
Patterson said September is usually a full month for guests as weather is still very nice.
“We certainly don’t want anyone to panic. We’re hoping this fire is contained quickly and we’re able to get back to the lodge,” she said.
Robert Turner, assistant deputy minister of Emergency Management BC, said in a provincial wildfire call Wednesday the decision to close the park was in consultation with BC Wildfire Service.
“This closure is also, of course, for the safety of the first responders and to ensure the resources currently fighting wildfires across the province do not have to be diverted away from protecting homes in communities.”
At this point the Canadian Armed Forces have not been called in to help with the Diamond Creek Fire.
We will update this story as more information comes available.