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West Kelowna  

Wildfire - beating a beast

Gary Harland, with the BC Forest Service said his confidence is growing every day in the fight against the Smith Creek Fire. 

Emergency operations announced a portion of the evacuated residents could return home today.

"We're very happy about the announcement today. We will be working with Wayne (Schnitzler) and will reassess things at the end of the day," he said. 

The director of emergency operations Tracey Batten said people need to bear in mind that this is an active fire.

"We stress, these residents remain on evacuation alert. Those residents returning to their homes should be ready to leave their homes at a moments notice, should conditions change."

Harland said they are still ramping up response to the fire and now have 80 firefighters on the ground. They are hoping to consolidate the guards through today. 

"We're consolidating the lines, especially in the middle where it's smoking so much - there's a big green area, everyone can see it," he said. "We're comfortable given the risks with what is going on right now.

"It's difficult going and our staff are working very hard to make progress there." 

Some of the factors in deciding to allow people back home was based on how much fuel had been consumed in those areas and how effective the guards were. "There's a whole bunch of guard that needs to go in at the top of hill," he said. 

Aircraft use is status quo; they did not use scooper aircraft on the ridge this morning because they're bringing people into that area, but helicopters continue to fight the fire. 

Wayne Schnitzler with West Kelowna Fire Rescue said fire departments will still be patrolling the areas daily and in the evenings. 

Currently there are no restrictions on water use for residents returning home. However, because so many hydrants have been turned on and off in the area, residents may notice their water is a bit brown when they start to run it. They are advised to let it run for about 30 seconds and all the discolouration should flush out. 

West Kelowna mayor Doug Findlater thanked everyone involved in the effort from the RCMP to residents in the community who came forward to bring people in, to local businesses that provided accommodation, food and supplies. 

"I can't help but praise the municipal and forestry firefighters. We watched a lot of this very closely and they really do put themselves in harm's way and they risk their lives," he said. "We're obviously a very resilient community"

Below is the video of the announcement.

 

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