B.C. wildfire out of control but situation improving: authorities
Published Sunday, July 22, 2018 12:04PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, July 22, 2018 2:53PM EDT
Some residents of the Okanagan region in British Columbia woke up Sunday to a sight they hadn’t seen in days: a smoke-free sky.
“This is the best I’ve seen it in the last couple days,” Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin told CTV News Channel.
Several wildfires have been burning in the area since a lightning storm hit early last week.
One of the largest fires is the one at Mount Eneas, just south of Peachland. Nearly 1,000 properties in the area were either ordered evacuated or placed on alert for potential evacuations at the peak of the fire activity.
All of those evacuation orders had been downgraded to alerts by Sunday morning, allowing people to return to their homes.
Steve Oram and his family were ordered to leave Wednesday night as flames began to encircle their house.
“All of a sudden the winds picked up and we saw this wall of fire coming,” he told CTV Vancouver.
When they saw flames shooting above their house, they believed the home was lost. Firefighters were able to save it, although the fire did leave them without electricity and water even after the danger passed.
As of Sunday morning, the Mount Eneas fire was estimated as being 1,374 hectares in size and said to be out of control. The BC Wildfire Service said the fire’s spread seemed to be slowing. Heavy equipment and aerial bombardments were being used in an attempt to contain the fire.
Separately, a 10-hectare fire was being fought actively north of Peachland, while a 400-hectare fire on the other side of Okanagan Lake was being contained within a perimeter.
According to the wildfire service, there were a total of eight active fires of note within the province’s interior as of Sunday morning. More than 200 firefighters were working to bring them under control.
The weather conditions were a boon for firefighting efforts on Saturday and were expected to have a similar effect on Sunday.
The forecast past Sunday was somewhat dicier for firefighters, Jason Luciw of the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre told The Canadian Press. According to Luciw, Monday’s forecast of warmer temperatures and winds gusting above 40 km/h could help the fires once again spread.
Fortin said Peachland residents able to remain in their homes had been offering up their living spaces and possessions for anyone in need of them.
“Anything anybody needs, there’s someone there willing to give it,” she said.
The mayor described the members of her community as people “becoming pros at” dealing with wildfires, adding that it was an unusual way to think of things.
“Unfortunately, this seems to be becoming routine,” she said. “It seems to get dryer each year.”
With files from The Canadian Press