An evacuation alert was issued Monday afternoon for 200 properties that could have been endangered by the Skaha Creek wildfire west of Penticton, a report said.
Wind gusts of up to 40 km/h were forecast Monday afternoon. The alert, which is a reminder to people to be prepared to leave at any moment, covers the entire Penticton Indian Reserve, Shingle Creek to the south. It also includes the Skaha Hills subdivision and Riva Ridge Mobile Home Park.
Those under alert should pre-register with Emergency Support Services by calling 1-800-585-9559 or visiting www.ess.gov.bc.ca.
The City of Penticton quickly announced that it had activated its emergency operations center to help if necessary, shortly after the evacuation alert was sent.
Donny Van Dyk, EOC director, stated in a press release that “We are taking steps to prepare for the event there is an alteration in the behavior Skaha Creek wildfire” and was ready to support Penticton Indian Band if necessary.
According to the BC Wildfire Service, the fire was started Saturday afternoon in the hills about four kilometers west from Penticton Regional Airport. It had now grown to 212 hectares by Monday afternoon.
Although smoke could be seen almost immediately from Penticton, which was treated to an entire weekend of aerial heroics by firefighting aircraft, flames were not visible until Sunday evening when the fire’s western side crested a ridge overlooking Penticton Indian Reserve.
On Monday, the BC Wildfire Service had about 70 people and eight pieces of heavy equipment. There were also water skimmers and helicopters providing assistance from above. More assistance is expected Tuesday.
Monday was spent by crews attacking the east flank, setting up spot fires, and guarding the Skaha Creek Road. Heavy equipment also built guards along the north and west flanks.
“It’s the fuel condition right now – the fuels are very dry – and there were some winds (Sunday), that is what we were kinda battling.” Rosalyn Johnson, the spokeswoman for BC Wildfire Service, said that it was just a combination of those two factors.
“We are putting as much effort as possible into it and trying to limit its growth.”
Johnson stated that the pilot of the water skimmers was required to land on Monday at Skaha Lake to avoid a collision. He then parked the plane on a beach and waited for an engineer to examine the problem.
Pilots spent the weekend competing with boaters on Okanagan Lake, who didn’t give the aircraft enough space to work.