Around 17,000 people have been forced from their homes in West Kelowna as crews battle two out-of-control wildfires raging in the hot, dry area.

A forest fire near Glen Rosa covering about 350 hectares started on Saturday afternoon. A second blaze about 10 kilometres away broke out at the Rose Valley Dam later that evening.

So far, at least nine buildings have burned down.

Elise Riedlinger, a fire information officer, said the fires cover roughly 450 hectares combined, and efforts to control them have been hampered by scorching temperatures, strong winds and trees killed by pine beetles.

“It’s just very dry conditions throughout the area,” said Riedlinger.

“(On Saturday) we had quite strong winds that pushed the fire into the larger size at Glen Rosa,” she said, adding that fire is spreading eastward toward Okanagan Lake.

“(Yesterday) with afternoon heating they’re expected to gust up to 35 kilometres an hour, and that was another challenge for our crews.”

Around 125 firefighters, 10 helicopters, eight air tankers and other heavy equipment from the B.C. Fire Services are being used to manage the two fires because they’re so close together.

In the meantime, 6,500 homes have been evacuated and others are on alert in Glenrose, Shannon Woods, West Kelowna, Crystal Springs and Rose Valley.

Highway 97 was also closed because of thick smoke.

It’s unclear how the fires started, but human activity is suspected because there have been no recent lightning storms.

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