The intensity of the fire was extreme and accelerated very quickly. Image Credit: Contributed

Fire quickly escalated

Initial Lake Country fire response crew faced extreme challenges.

The actions of the initial response crew to the Okanagan Centre wildfire likely saved many people’s homes, says Lake Country’s deputy fire chief.

Brent Penner said when the original call came for a fire on the side of the road along Okanagan Centre Road West on Saturday afternoon, the four-member crew arrived to see the fire had already taken off.

Whipped up by gusting winds, Penner said one house had already been lost as firefighters scrambled to protect other structures as the smoke quickly intensified, while batting against steep terrain and houses surrounded by vegetation and trees.

“It started near the bottom of the hill near the lake and quickly took off. At one point we thought we were going to lose all of Nighthawk,” Penner said referring to houses along that road.

“We were playing catchup to get ahead of the fire to prevent structures from being lost but some were still lost. But that initial response crew did a tremendous job under very difficult circumstances.

“The smoke was so thick…I was the fifth to arrive at the scene and the incident commander was standing in front of my truck and I couldn’t even see him until he started banging on my hood.”

Penner said the residential area of Tyndall Estates was also primarily in the face of the racing fire.

An reconnaissance team is expected to head out this morning and get an accurate assessment of how many homes and other building structures have been lost.

“We definitely had our hands full yesterday but we mustered our troops with a lot of help from other fire departments and made a really good stand in a very challenging situation,” Penner said.

He said while the fire has been 80 per cent contained, there remains fire hot spots within the fire zone and some tree candling.

“Mother Nature didn’t help us much yesterday and won’t be today either with regard to the winds, so the evacuation order and alert will remain in effect for the time being,” he said. “Because of the hot spots and wind, some structures remain still very vulnerable.”

He added that Lake Country continues to receive manpower support from other fire departments across the valley to help relieve local firefighting crews.

He said the area of origin of the fire won’t be hard to identify when the flames have died down, but the cause of the fire is yet to be confirmed.

Karen Miller, communications officer for the District of Lake Country, said the quick activation Saturday of the Emergency Operation Centre helped provide administrative support for the municipality and start up a reception centre in Kelowna at the Salvation Army Church for the evacuees.

Miller, who lives in an evacuation alert area, said these fires are always difficult for district staff who are working on the emergency response effort while their homes may be in harm’s way of the fire.

“People have been calling us from all over the country trying to get updates on what is happening with the fire,” Miller noted.

Just Posted

Community lends a hand after fire

Fundraiser to aid fire victim’s widow

Penticton bookkeeper nets 90 days for $60k embezzlement

Judith Kendrick pleaded guilty to fraud late last year, and was up for sentencing Tuesday morning

Video: Physicians salute Penticton philanthropist

Physicians say philanthropist, David Kampe, “single-handedly” changed patient care quality

Dine Around Thompson Okanagan set to kick off

Popular event kicks off in Kelowna with a sold out launch party

Freezing rain warning in effect for B.C. Southern Interior

Environment Canada issued the freezing rain warning for most of the Southern Interior Tuesday morning

Penticton youth centre finally gets home, sweet home

Youth centre organizers can start renovating 501 Main Street after getting the keys to the building

VIDEO: B.C. Lions sign defensive back T.J. Lee to contract for upcoming season

The four-year veteran had a team-high four interceptions and 49 tackles last season with B.C.

Letter: Amazed by Okanagan Falls volunteer first responders

We would like to publicly thank these brave men and women who give so selflessly of their time

How an immigrant to Canada helped Donald Trump prove his mental health

Test that cleared Trump was developed by doctor associated with McGill and Sherbrooke universities

Premier touches on multiple topics ahead of Asia trade trip

Housing and childcare are expected to be the focus of the BC NDP’s first budget in February.

Premier offers condolences to family of boy, 15, killed in Vancouver crossfire

John Horgan: ‘No stone is to be left unturned until we find the perpetrator of this heinous crime’

VIDEO: Explorers uncover Canada’s deepest cave in Fernie

The cave, named Bisaro Anima, was confirmed to have broken the record on New Year’s Day

Vernon to host largest Special Olympics B.C. Winter Games in 2019

Games to be held Feb. 21-23, with more than 800 athletes expected to take part

Ex-BC Liberal staffer focused on ‘favourable’ ethnic communities in scandal: lawyer

Former communications director Brian Bonney’s sentencing hearing for breach of trust is underway

Most Read