The mayor of Osoyoos, BC, is urging potential tourists to do their homework before traveling to southern Okanagan as a large wildfire rages in the nearby mountainside.
Sue McKortoff said that while the tourist destination still welcomes tourists, it encourages visitors to be prepared and plan.
“Make sure you do your homework. Look closely. Decide where it is you plan to go. Are you coming to a hotel or a campsite? Contact them before you even leave your house. Do not come over here and assume that everything is in order, because at this time it is not, “the mayor told Global News on Wednesday.
About 1,000 tourists were evacuated from Spirit Ridge Resort and the adjacent Nk’Mip Campground and RV Resort early Tuesday morning due to the intrusive Nk’Mip Creek wildfire as it burned to the southeast.
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McKortoff urges evacuated vacationers to take home.
“Tourists who have been evacuated should consider going home because we have nowhere to place them,” she said.
“If you are at one of the other resorts or at a hotel and you are booked and feeling good there, we do not tell you to go home, we just tell people who are wondering where to go that our job is to protect everyone and definitely our residents. ”
Tourists are not eligible for ESS (Emergency Social Services) support.
Some local residents under evacuation orders have reported problems finding available housing as hotels, motels and holiday homes are filled with visitors.
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“We hope that if there are locals who are displaced, they will find family or friends to stay with rather than go to the front desk and get them to try to find a place.”
The 2,000-acre fire burning in mountainous terrain east of Lake Osoyoos has caused nearly 700 properties in the regional district and on Osoyoo’s Indian tape reserve to be put under evacuation orders, while another 1,000 properties are under evacuation alarms.
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McKortoff said no properties have been evacuated within the town of Osoyoos, but more than 600 housing units are under alarm, as well as a handful of motels and hotels.
The unpredictable nature of the wildfire has resulted in some visitors fleeing the area as a precaution and companies facing mass cancellation.
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McKortoff acknowledged that the threat from Mother Nature will take an economic toll on the local economy, which is heavily dependent on this summer’s tourism dollars.
“Of course we will be affected. Everyone else will do the same in Okanagan and BC. I’m not sure there is much we can do to change that, ”she said.
“I’m positively optimistic that things will get better.”
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Kassandra Lang, owner of Cheeks Wear Osoyoos, said she has noticed a significant drop in foot traffic since the forest fire triggered Monday afternoon.
“It stopped as far as foot traffic, fewer people came in,” she told Global News.
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“The last two days have been super slow, today it has been a little busier.”
Kody Rosentreter of North Basin Brewing said losses caused by the forest fire come at an inappropriate time as small businesses try to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Businesses have to try to adapt and overcome these things, but it’s hard, especially in a city like this, which is so dependent on tourism.”
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“It seems to be driving tourism out of Osoyoos.”
In the premium grape-growing region of Oliver, BC, wineries are also facing an economic hit, as the rapid wildfire is forcing some companies to evacuate and temporarily close.
Some wineries along Black Sage Road closed their doors to tourists on Tuesday.
“Burrowing Owl Estate Winery has been evacuated to ensure the safety of our winery guests and team. We are all safe! ”The popular winery sent to Facebook.
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Phantom Creek Estates, the newest multi-million dollar luxury winery on the Black Sage Bench, also said it was affected by the wildfire.
“Our winery building is on evacuation order today,” the winery published online.
“Although there is no imminent threat to the vineyard, we are closing the tasting room and the vineyard offices in accordance with the order today.”
Nk’Mip Cellars at Spirit Ridge Resort in Osoyoos, BC, is temporarily closed as the entire property is evacuated.
Wildfire causes and consequences
Other wineries further north on Black Sage Road, such as Silver Sage Winery, remain open as well as an abundance of wineries along Highway 97, known as the Golden Mile.
Dapinder Gill, general manager of Kismet Estate Winery, said 50 percent of reservations in his bistro were canceled when visitors fled the area.
Gill, who is also director of the Oliver / Osoyoos Winery Association and sits on the board of Wine Growers of British Columbia, said wineries in the Oliver area will suffer a significant economic blow due to the impact of wildfires on tourism.
“There will be financial consequences for all wineries around the valley, because we look forward to the tourist season, and it is one of our biggest financial assets that tourists come to the area. “The tourists are careful and cancel their reservations, it is a very big economic hit for the whole valley,” Gill told Global News.
Gill believes no vineyards have been damaged and no structures have been lost to the wildfire.
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