Oliver resident said fire looked like volcano erupted

Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes broke down while thanking the volunteers who kept the community safe from two wildfires overnight.

A fire attack helicopter refills its water tank at a pond across Hwy 97 from the Testalinden Creek fire.

A fire attack helicopter refills its water tank at a pond across Hwy 97 from the Testalinden Creek fire.

Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes broke down while thanking the volunteers who kept the community safe from two wildfires overnight.

“It is events like this that really show what the community is made of,” he said to a crowd that gathered for an information meeting at the Oliver Community Centre, which has been transformed into an emergency services centre as of Friday night for the approximate 360 homes put on evacuation order.

“You look up in this room full of people and there is my pharmacist, friends and neighbours — it just choked me up,” said Hovanes after the press conference. “It is emotional. I take our little town pretty personal.”

The mayor was watching a windstorm develop outside his window on Friday night when it was brought to his attention two wildfires had started on either end of Oliver. He hopped in his car to see it with his own eyes.

“It was absolutely unreal. I describe it like you were looking into the eye of these flames. It was only a matter of feet from these houses on the west side of Oliver. It was really, really close.”

As night settled in frightening pictures of glowing orange hillsides from the two fires bearing down on the northwest and southwest of the town of Oliver were being shared on social media. But for Monika Reich the terrifying evening started before that.

“My neighbour phoned me and said you have a fire coming over your ridge right behind you. I walked down my driveway to look and the firetrucks were screaming up,” said Reich. “For me it was real when I saw that fire. It takes your breath away, you know it is for real.”

She said her neighbour a few houses over lost his home to the Wilson Mountain fire, another home was burned down just a few kilometres south from the town of Oliver in the Testalinden Fire. Reich believes more could have been damaged had it not been for the tireless efforts of the fire crews and she could not thank them enough.

Residents found out at 3 p.m. on Saturday the Wilson Mountain evacuation order has been downgraded to an alert, allowing 260 families to return to their homes.

“To a degree it is a relief and the other side I am thinking what I am going to see when I go home? Will I have electricity or water?” said Reich.

Adrienne Herbert said the fire also quickly descended upon her street in the Wilson Mountain area.

“My husband went to the driveway and saw the whole mountain on fire. I jumped into the car in my slippers and my child just was wearing shorts and a tank top. It wasn’t enough time to even think of what we had to grab,” said Herbert.

While her husband stayed behind to help the fire crews, Herbert made her way to a friends house when it finally sunk in what was happening.

“My legs began shaking and I went into shock,” she said.

Watching the fire from her accommodations, Herbert wasn’t too sure what shape her house would be in when she returned.

“At night it looked like a volcano had erupted. There were trees still going up in flames at 6 a.m. This was too close,” she said.

Fortunately she was able to access her home early Saturday morning and it was not directly affected by the fire.

As of mid-afternoon on Saturday the Testalinden Creek fire was an estimated 1,556 hectares, while the WIlson Mountain fire is estimated at 316 hectares.



Just Posted

James Miller, the managing editor at the Penticton Herald, has been voted in for Jake Kimberley’s vacated council seat. (Submitted)
James Miller elected as Penticton city councillor

Penticton also voted yes to allowing up to 25 years for a Skaha Marina contract

The Eyes of the Tigers on the 2021 Beer Rune on June 19. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton Beer Runners take trip around local beaches and brews

Over 160 people signed up to come back after the 2020 run was cancelled

There was high voter turnout for the first of three advance voting days for the Penticton city by-election.
Penticton city by-election general voting day is today, June 19

737 voters on June 9 in comparison to 2018 general election, which had 1,001 on first day

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 Penticton-area men charged with Kamloops brothers’ double homicide

Brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May in Naramata

(File photo)
Penticton not holding Canada Day activities out of respect for Indigenous people

Cities across B.C. are cancelling the holiday after an increased spotlight on Canada’s dark history

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Starting in 2022, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is extending dog control to the entire Electoral Area D. (Stock photo)
Dog control bylaw passes in Shuswap area despite ‘threatening’ emails

CSRD board extending full dog control in Electoral Area D starting next year

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read