Jon Atkins was startled awake Sunday night by someone pounding on his camper door alerting him to a forest fire nearby his campground at Okanagan Falls Provincial Park.
“We went inside about 9:30 p.m. and around 10:15 p.m. people were beating on each other’s doors telling them there was a forest fire,” said Atkins, from Polson, Mont., who had just pulled in with his camper to the provincial park around 4 p.m. “When we looked out the camper we saw all the flames so we quickly loaded up what we could and left the trailer and got out of there.”
Atkins said the campground, which has 25 sites, seemed to be full when he arrived earlier in the afternoon. Everyone got out safe, but not without a few heart-pounding moments.
“When we drove around the last corner of the road the fire was down to the road with flames, smoke and ash covering the area. We bolted right through it,” said Atkins, who is visiting the area with his wife. “The heart was beating a little fast because you don’t know what is happening. It appeared to get worse and worse. I’m really surprised at how far up it went in such a short period of time.”
One resident watching trees flare up on the hillside just west of Okanagan Falls along Green Lake Road said she saw what she believed to be a downed power line with sparks flying off of it just before the fire started. Strong wind gusts blew through the Okanagan Falls area earlier in the evening, but firefighters could not confirm to the Western News if a downed power line was the cause of the blaze.
On Monday, the B.C. Wildfire Service said the fire was six hectares in size and 75 per cent contained. An official from the Okanagan Falls Fire Department said several homes along Green Lake Road were evacuated, but no buildings were lost. Despite the fire getting close to a few buildings, crews managed to hold back the flames. The official added the fire did not cross Green Lake Road. The provincial park host still expects the campground will be closed for the remainder of the week.
Rachel Witt, fire information officer with the B.C. Wildfire Service, said crews established containment in the northern area of the fire and are continuing to get control of the southern part. She added the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Many residents did not want to take the risk of staying in their homes, with the high winds blowing Harlee Code said she wasn’t going to take any chances.
“We saw how fast it took over the mountain. We literally packed nothing,” she said. “We saw a power line sparking and then the orange flames literally took off. We were outside securing our kayaks from the wind and saw it all unfold.”