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Drones tackle Okanagan blaze as cool weather helps bring B.C. wildfires under control

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A crew member works at the Watching Creek fire in British Columbia in an Aug.5, 2022 handout photo. Cooler conditions and calmer winds have also helped crews make progress on several other wildfires around B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-BC Wildfire Service **MANDATORY CREDIT**

PENTICTON — Drones are helping map hot spots in a wildfire burning in British Columbia's Okanagan region as cooler conditions helped firefighters elsewhere in the province bring blazes under control.

Crews were making progress on several wildfires Wednesday, including a blaze near Lytton that broke out nearly a month ago and destroyed several properties. 

But BC Wildfire Service information officer Mikhail Elsay told a news conference that crews were still having a difficult fight with the 67-square-kilometre fire southwest of Penticton in the Okanagan. 

"While we have been making good progress, this fire is still uncontained, and out of control at this time, especially on the western flanks." 

Elsay said new drone technology is being used to scan the fire's edges to ensure flames have been put out. The drone was operated overnight and helped crews understand what hot spots should be targeted, he said. 

"This thermal scan allows us to really nail down the final spots, especially the tricky, rocky, deep burning root systems. These drones are very sensitive, they can pick up even very small amounts of heat. So we'll be able to really confirm the work that we're doing out there."

The area where crews have made progress means that residents in about four dozen homes will be allowed to return. 

However, more than 400 other homes, including the entire community of Olalla, remain under evacuation order. 

Another 900 properties in the area are under an evacuation alert, which means residents have to be ready to leave on short notice. 

Erick Thompson, information officer for the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, said one uninhabited outbuilding was destroyed in the fire.  

Highway 3A, which cuts through the valley where crews have been trying to control the wildfire, remains closed.

Elsay said firefighters are watching the weather, which shows a lightning storm for the Penticton area beginning Wednesday afternoon. This could bring with it "erratic winds" and some rain, he added.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2022.

The Canadian Press