Home destroyed as Okanagan fire grows to 1,400 hectares
VANCOUVER -- A fire in B.C.'s Okanagan has grown to 1,400 hectares, and at least one home has been destroyed.
A photo of what's left of the house on Christie Mountain Lane shows just some of the exterior walls appear to still be standing. The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen says the property had been placed under evacuation order Tuesday, and the owner has been contacted.
Thousands of homes are also either on evacuation alert or evacuation order.
The fire, which is burning north of Okanagan Falls on the east side of Skaha Lake, was first discovered Tuesday and quickly grew in estimated size. The last update came from the BC Wildfire Service at about 12:15 p.m.
According to the wildfire service, the blaze is considered to be "active" and is "burning in difficult rocky sloped terrain with limited access points for ground crews."
"Most of the growth is attributed to overnight winds," the fire service said in its afternoon update. "This estimate will change once smoke begins to dissipate and visibility becomes better."
There were 21 fire crew members on scene overnight and additional resources are expected to arrive throughout the day Wednesday.
"It's been a team effort so far, and I think there are longer days ahead of us," Penticton city manager Donny van Dyk said at a news conference Wednesday.
There are 319 properties under evacuation order in the Heritage Hills area and near McLean Creek Road. Residents were ordered to leave their properties immediately Tuesday.
Thousands more are on evacuation alert in the area. There are 3,669 properties in the southeast part of Penticton that are on alert, including those within these street boundaries:
- Lakeside Road
- South Main
- Main Street
- Industrial/Okanagan Avenue
- Alison Street
- Penticton Creek
- Syer Road
An additional 116 properties in Upper Carmi area and one home north of Heritage Hills is under an alert, while the Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park has also been placed under warning.
An evacuation alert, the RDOS says, is to prepare residents in case of an evacuation order.
"It's so important for people to prepare, and if that means your precious mementos and other things like that, you need to take them to safety, now is the time to do that," emergency operations centre information officer Erick Thompson said at a news conference Wednesday.
Anyone with an evacuation alert can register with emergency support services now in case they need to evacuate in the near future. Details on registering can be found here.
Boaters, drivers asked to stay away
Thompson told CTV News Vancouver told CTV News Vancouver that drivers in the area should also be cautious and make room for first responders.
"We have a lot of people who are on the highways watching this fire, and that's become a very dangerous situation, so anyone in the area should give first responders as much room as possible to operate, including out on the water," Thompson said.
"Skaha Lake boaters should avoid Skaha Lake today at all. (They) shouldn’t be out there because we have skimmers and a lot of air traffic out there as well."
The City of Penticton issued its own warning to boaters Wednesday afternoon, saying air tankers are using the lake.
"It is important that these aircraft be given space to perform their job and boaters do not operate in the areas of the lake where air tankers are operating," van Dyk said in a statement.
Thompson said the area director called him Tuesday night and was "very, very concerned."
"He said that he is watching the fire cascade down the mountain, and he said it is like a slow motion nightmare."
Penticton residents Lori and Brian Spence have packed their bags and have also gassed up their speedboat in case they need it to flee the fire. The couple lived through a similar experience when another wildfire came within 500 metres of their home 25 years ago.
"It’s reality, it’s part of life, and we’ve got to deal with it and live with it," Lori said.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's David Molko in Penticton, B.C.