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Penticton grass fire almost a ‘catastrophic’ situation: fire chief

Westbench area was near evacuation, says Penticton fire chief
Firefighters responded to a grass fire in the West Bench area on the morning of June 24. The hillside fire was near Selby Park, off West Bench Drive. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)

The fire in the hills above Penticton could have been a disaster if firefighters hadn’t arrived when they had.

“It was very close to a catastrophic situation, but we were able to get it in time,” said Penticton fire chief Larry Watkinson on June 25. “Thirty seconds later and we would have been evacuating all of Husula Heights.”

The fire had been just about to get into the tree line, where there were a number of dead and downed trees.

“It would have just taken off and there would have been no controlling it, it would have been a full evacuation of Westbench,” said Watkinson.

The fire up on Westbench ended up roughly 0.4 hectares before it was brought under control and extinguished.

READ MORE: Crews respond to fire on West Bench Drive near Penticton

The investigation into the fire has been completed, and the exact cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

With temperatures expected to reach record-breaking highs over the weekend, the Penticton Fire Department is calling for residents to be as cautious as can be with anything that might risk a fire.

“It’s really sensitive out there right now. The rain that we did have was incredibly minimal, compared to what we usually have in June, we’re in a desperate situation and we need people to be smart out there.”

The Penticton Fire Department is pulling in additional crew for the weekend to staff an engine dedicated just to wildfire response due to the high temperatures.

It wasn’t just fires that the department was busy dealing with on Thursday. The department had also been called out for three marine rescue responses.

One was yet another reminder for families going down the River Channel to follow the signage and get out of the water when warned.

“Some kids lost traction and washed through, got caught up in the current, floated out into the lake and couldn’t make their way back,” said Watkinson.

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Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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