Sep 10, 2012 / 2:20 pm
The Trepanier Creek Wildfire sprung up quickly and moved swiftly.
Describing the fire as a 'wind driven event', Peachland Fire Chief, Grant Topham, says the fire sprang up at about 3 p.m. and within about 90 minutes had moved 3 kilometres.
Topham says the fire started in the Upper Trepanier, the area off of Highway 97C and the Trepanier exit.
"It appears to have started near the Trepanier Linear Park," says Topham who was unable to pinpoint an exact cause.
"The winds up there yesterday were very strong coming downslope, and they quickly forced that fire into the residential areas of the Upper Trepanier and Star Place."
Topham spoke along with other emergency personnel during a media briefing Monday morning
He says the fire then quickly spread into the Peachland area.
"The crews worked very hard to try to control the spread of this fire. It was a wind driven event," says Topham.
Three homes within the municipality of Peachland were lost as was one abandoned home in the Okanagan West Electoral area. Several outbuildings were also lost.
Topham says crews did all they could to save the homes.
"The wind was blowing very hard in that area. We had crews in there and they saved many, many homes. The wind blew the fire into those homes, they tried to save them as best they could with the apparatus and water they had on board," says Topham.
"They saved many homes but unfortunately there was some they could not and did not save."
While the fire is considered 50 per cent contained, Topham says they are not taking any chances.
"We have areas where there are hot spots - there are trees that are still burning, there are stumps that are burning," says Topham.
"We are expecting to get up to 50km/h winds. We may or may not get rain. That's why we want to try and minimize it as much as we can."
Currently, 17 pieces of apparatus and six helicopters are working the fire along with 65 municipal fire fighters from communities up and down the valley as well as 70 fire fighters from the Ministry of Forests.
Topham says those crews are working to keep another event from happening again.
More than 1,500 people remain on Evacuation Order while nearly 500 people are on Evacuation Alert.
Other highlights from the media briefing:
Peachland Mayor Keith Fielding: "I have the utmost confidence in the emergency personnel working on this fire. At this time there have been no injuries reported and for that we are extremely grateful. Peachland residents can be comforted by the fact that the emergency response to this quick moving fire has been exceptional. I know I speak for all of council when I say our thoughts are with those who have suffered loss from the fire and those that are still awaiting news that they can return to their homes."
RCMP Cst. Kris Clark: "The evacuation from our perspective went fairly well. The vast majority or people complied with the order. We have experienced some occurrence of people trying to return to the area. We are asking people to stay out for their safety."
Clark says police are maintaining security through roving patrols and multiple checkpoints.
"Our purpose is to maintain the peace and ensure public safety."
SD23 Superintendent Hugh Gloster: Peachland Elementary School is closed Monday as the school is within the area under evacuation order. If that scenario continues into Tuesday, Gloster says a contingency plan has been established.
"Staff and students from Peachland Elementary School are asked to report to George Pringle Elementary School in West Kelowna at 8:30 tomorrow (Tuesday) morning in the gymnasium. Students and teachers will be re-assigned to alternate classroom arrangements for the duration of the evacuation order."
Additional transportation will also be provided picking up students from Beach Avenue adjacent to the old primary school at 8:10 a.m. and dropping students off at the same location following pick-up at 2:30 p.m.
Gloster adds that a lifting of the evacuation order does not mean Peachland Elementary will automatically re-open.
"We will need to go back into the school at that point to assess whether or not we need to bring in any equipment to prepare the school for occupancy. The most important role we can fulfil now is to stay out of the way of emergency personnel.
ESS official Bruce Smith: "As of this morning, 450 people have registered at the Emergency Support Services reception centre at the Lions Community Centre on Main Street in West Kelowna. We encourage any resident who has been evacuated from their home as a result of the Trepanier Fire who needs assistance with clothing, food or accommodation to make their way to the reception centre in West Kelowna."
Smith also thanked volunteers in Summerland and Penticton who assisted with evacuees at the ESS reception centre in Summerland Sunday evening.
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