Wednesday, October 22nd13.7°C
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Relief among returning evacuees

Three days after being forced from their homes by encroaching flames, many West Kelowna residents were relieved to begin resuming a version of their normal life again. 

About 2,000 people were allowed to return to their homes in the Smith Creek Fire area on Sunday, while still remaining on evacuation alert. And several hundred others remain on evacuation order and are required to wait for an update expected around 12 p.m. Monday, before they are allowed to return.

Helicopters flew overhead and smoke could be seen on the hilltop as neighbours greeted one another and unpacked their vehicles.

At one point, the fire was a 20-minute hike up the hill from Jen McAnulty and Nick Forrester's home. "Tending the garden and having a drink," were the first things on their to-do list. 

Bernie Bloomfield has lived in the Shannon Woods neighbourhood for more than 12 years and says it feels great to be home. 

"The fire line came down quite close, so it was a big deal. Especially Friday night, Saturday -- especially with the winds so bad," he said. "This morning we got up and the smoke had gone down considerably and so I thought 'well, time to go home'."

Doug Greggain who lives on Tallus Ridge Drive said he was happy to be home, but that there had been some reported break-ins in his neighbourhood. 

RCMP blocking Mountains Hollow Lane said only one break-in could be confirmed. No other details of the incident were immediately available.

Claudette Mazzei said she got back to her home around 12:30 p.m. She was two hours away camping when the evacuation order went out. 

"Thank God - I'm just glad nothing happened." 

Kayla Van Metre said she found out about the order when a friend from work called.

"He said, 'your hill is on fire!'" and I started packing as soon as he called."

They stayed with friends at a small cabin for a while, but ended up in Vernon for a night through emergency services. 

"I was really impressed, the volunteers there - all the effort they put in to calm everyone down, they really lightened the atmosphere," said Van Metre.

A couple of hours after being allowed back home, Hailee Carroll was already mowing her lawn. 

"I just felt like I had to do something," she said. "It feels awesome to be home." 

Carroll and her husband have only been in the neighbourhood for less than two years, and said watching the flames was nerve racking. 

"We came down a few nights and just kind of sat in our car across the street and just watched for a bit," she said. "I kind of felt like we would be okay, but you never know." 

As of 12 p.m. Sunday the wildfire was 50 per cent contained, and 260 hectares in size. The leaders of the fire fight held a press conference today in Kelowna and said they hope to increase that number by Sunday night. 

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