Hundreds of residents in Penticton are preparing for another restless night after being forced from their homes due to a rapidly growing wildfire near Okanagan Falls on Tuesday (Aug. 18).
The blaze spread to 1,000 hectares in size within roughly four hours – sparking an evacuation order for more than 300 surrounding properties. The wildfire had grown a further 400 hectares as of Wednesday afternoon.
Lorna Nicholson, an author, was writing in her office when she received a text from a friend asking how close their house was to the Mount Christie wildfire. That’s when she walked downstairs, looked out the window and saw heavy smoke in the distance.
“It was small at first,” she told Black Press Media. “I went outside to watch and it kept getting bigger. Then a neighbour called and said our other neighbour, who is an RCMP, had said we were getting evacuated.”
Once they received the official door knock by officials, Nicholson and her family quickly packed up their two dogs, family photos, their computers and a few other essentials and headed to the house of a friend across Skaha Lake.
Hundreds of others – including locals and vacationers – quickly headed to the evacuation centre on Ellis Street, while heavy smoke billowed over the nearby bluff and trees could be seen candling.
Meanwhile, 3,600 other properties were put on alert with the possibility of thousands having to leave their homes at a moment’s notice.
Linda Fennema-Smid and her family can see the massive fire from their front porch on the northeast side of the city. While not under an official evacuation alert at this time, they “have packed our bags and [are] ready to go.”
She told Black Press Media that “with report of [zero]-per-cent containment this morning, we remain concerned and slept uneasily last night.”
BC Wildfire Service crews could be seen attacking the blaze via air tankers Tuesday afternoon and were working overnight to get control of the large fire. Efforts to hold the line were continued Wednesday.
It is too soon to confirm the cause of the fire, but August is the busiest month of the summer for wildfires due to the hot and tinder-dry conditions mixed with routine lightning storms.
“Not sure how many days we will be evacuated but the firefighters are working like crazy,” Nicholson said.
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