WATCH: People are fleeing an enormous wildfire in the BC interior. John Hua has the latest.
NEAR ROCK CREEK —; A fire that is now 2,500 hectares in size has caused the evacuation of hundreds of residents and campers in the Rock Creek area.
“Despite the best air tankers and crews on the ground, it’s just grown very quickly,” says Fire Information Officer Fanny Bernard.
The fire, which was first reported 1:30 Thursday afternoon, is near the junction of Highway 3 and Highway 33, 40 km east of Osoyoos.
B.C. Wildfire officials say several structures have been lost in different areas of the Rock Creek fire, including homes. It is not know how many have been lost at this time.
#RockCreek resident says this is her home this AM. Yearbooks, family photos, clothing destroyed. (Pic contributed) pic.twitter广州桑拿网/CLyVKemkwy
— Neetu Garcha (@NeetuGarcha) August 14, 2015
The evacuation order includes the areas between Rock Creek and Westbridge, along with several roads further to the north in the Christian valley.
The fire is within metres of Highway 33, and massive plumes of smoke can be seen from as far away as Midway.
“You could feel the heat through the windows,” said Oliver Glaser, who was driving through the area.
“There were huge, 50-foot high flames at one point.”
Bernard says there’s no indication what caused the fire yet, but says high winds and drought conditions contributed to its rapid spread.
“It’s an area that’s been under sustained drought since the spring, just creating conditions for a very aggressive, very quickly growing wildfire,” said Bernard.
“It was originally on the west side of the highway. It jumped not only a highway but a river.”
In total, 270 homes had been evacuated as of 10 p.m. Thursday evening.
Fate of provincial campground unknown
Kettle River Provincial Park was the first area to be evacuated as crews used the campground as a staging area.
“There was no time for people to retrieve their belongings. The main priority was to get them to safety as fast as possible,” said Bernard.
Duncan Chambers, who was camping with his family in the park, says the fire seemed to be far away at first, but quickly spread before jumping the highway.
“[Within] minutes the fire was right there. Then it was a mad panic scramble,” he said.
“You could hear the propane exploding from the trailers that were on the north end of the park.”
Chambers, his family, and many others were forced to flee on foot with only the clothes on their back. In total, approximately 200 campers had to be evacuated.
WATCH: Global Calgary’s Jordan Witzel talks about abandoning his campsite at Kettle River Provincial Park and the danger in the area
BC Parks says they will arrange a refund for reservation holders affected by the evacuation – but it’s unknown if any of the trailers or cars left in the campground will survive.
“I’m hoping that they stopped the fire with some of the retardant. The bombers were coming in pretty low over the park,” said Chambers.
“But I don’t know. I’m thinking it’s all gone.”
The campground with imminent flames… Approx 230pm PST courtesy Sean Reade pic.twitter广州桑拿网/N6R2QBe7Fv
— Jordan Witzel (@jordanwitzel) August 14, 2015
Evacuations in place
Residents in the area are being sent to different places depending on where they live.
Evacuees on Christian Valley Road to Fiva Creek and those north of Westbridge have been directed north to the White Valley Community Centre in Lumby.
Evacuees between Rock Creek and Westbridge are being sent to Salvation Army Kelowna Community Church in Kelowna.
For people seeking information on evacuees: Reception centre numbers: Midway 250-449-2310, Kelowna 250-212-0854 and Lumby 250-549-0974.
WATCH: Dramatic video from Global News viewer Paul Brum of the aggressive wildfire burning beside the highway near Rock Creek in the interior
Evacuees living in Rock Creek, along with those who were on the campground, are being evacuated to the Midway Community Centre in Midway.
“It’s looking very bad,” says Vicki Gee, regional director for the Kootenay Boundary Regional District.
Gee says she’s heard reports that the campground and several homes have been destroyed, but at this point emergency officials haven’t commented on any loss of property.
However, emergency officials have told her the fire is now moving towards the town of Rock Creek itself.
An emergency centre has been also set up for evacuees at Bridesville Community Hall on Bridesville Townsite Road.
Three four-person attack crews, one 20-person unit, six helicopters, two air tankers and heavy equipment were battling the blaze. The Midway Fire Department was also responding.
Bernard said the cause of the fire is still under investigation and there is heavy smoke billowing from the area. A 20-person crew will remain on site overnight assisting with structure protection.
About 1,200 customers were without power in Rock Creek, Westbridge, Beaverdell, Bridesville and Christian Valley, said Fortis B.C. spokeswoman Nicole Bogdanovic.
She said crews could not begin working on the outage until it is declared safe.
“Our crews were directed by emergency officials to evacuate themselves from the area until morning.”
Highway 3 is closed in both directions two kilometres west of Rock Creek because of the fire, while RCMP say Highway 33 is also closed.
DriveBC says there are no detours and no estimated time of re-opening.
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– With files from