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Penticton  

Residents keep eye on fire

Colleen Essler spent Wednesday night watching an aggressive fire creep closer to her Green Mountain Road home.

At its worst, the fire was 10 feet from the house she shares with other family members.

"This is my first time dealing with a fire like this," she said Thursday, as she sat on her back steps looking at the blackened hillside. "It was intense, awesome and crazy, and I was terrified."

Essler said she wasn't too worried when the fire started Tuesday afternoon on Apex Mountain Road, up from the Apex Mountain Guest Ranch, because they thought it would go up the mountain.

On Tuesday night they heard from their next door neighbour, who said they were on alert. On Wednesday a bulldozer came and put a 10 foot berm around their property.

"We took all the wood stacked by the house away and moved other things away from the house," she said. "There was a little bit of a lull, and we couldn't see flames. Then around mid afternoon, an ember spark started right down by the road near our property. We said "oh no, and went into high alert."

A big barricade of fire retardant went in near the house, but by dinnertime the fire started cresting in the hills around them.

They were watching it as they packed up and prepared to leave, but when the fire picked up on the hill just above them, they went into frantic mode.

"We packed up our three dogs and two cats and other belongings," she said. "By 10:30, the hillside was halfway engulfed all the way across. The wind blew toward us and embers were landing all around us. Everyone left except for me and a couple of friends."

Just as the fire moved in close to the house, firefighters arrived and quickly put out the flames.

She advised them where other outbuildings were, and those structures were also saved.

"The guys came in so fast and saved everything, and we are very grateful," said Essler, who finally made it to bed at 3:30 a.m.

Esther Minty, the owner of Apex Mountain Guest Ranch, and friends were at the ranch Thursday watching the firefighting activity and keeping a close eye on the surrounding hillsides.

Minty, who evacuated her horses, chickens and dogs with the help of others on Wednesday, said forestry was doing a great job.

There were still more intense moments Thursday morning, when flames moved near to a historic log barn on Green Mountain Road.

Firefighters working on the hillside and helicopters stationed on a nearby field, quickly went to work putting out the flames.

Forest protection officer Jim Mottishaw, speaking at the scene Thursday morning, said the fire definitely grew Wednesday night and drew closer to a couple of homesteads.

The night shift crew worked with the landowners and Thursday they continued to aggressively mop up.

As of 2:48 p.m., the fire had grown to 313 hectares and was zero percent contained.

An evacuation alert for properties on Green Mountain Road and Apex Mountain Road was still in place and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

 

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