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Kelowna  

A tour of fire scene

Blackened and smouldering earth was the first sign of the wildfire that scorched Okanagan Centre over the weekend.

Then, blankets of fire retardant on land, homes and vehicles came into view as the media took a tour of the hardest hit area – Nighthawk Road.

Finally, there were the charred remains of houses with stellar views of Okanagan Lake.

Eight homes on Nighthawk and an outbuilding on Tyndall Road were destroyed by the fire which has yet to be put out.

“Fire will easily, depending on the wind direction, can jump from one house to another,” said Lake Country Fire Chief Steve Windsor as he looked at a ruined structure beside a house that looked relatively untouched. “In this case, firefighters would not have tried to put out the fire in the structure, it was too far gone. They would have tried to save the neighbourhood ones.”

Wind was around 50 kilometres an hour at its peak which he said was common at this time of the year.

At a news conference earlier, Windsor said firefighters did the best they could in the circumstances of the windblown fire that spread rapidly.

Later, he said there had been recent planning for such an event.

“In this subdivision here, because it has all the attributes of being west-facing, has a steep slope below it, a lot of fuel there, we had actually walked with all of firefighters about three weeks ago through this whole subdivision from one end to the other. So, we were finding where all the fire hydrants were, making sure they were clear and accessible, and ensuring the crews knew where they were going and what they were going to do. It was a huge benefit...It likely saved some of the homes.”

The media were not the only people to see the devastation on Sunday. Hours earlier, officials had escorted residents whose homes now lay in ruins. The mood was subdued, said one official.

The fire was human caused and RCMP arson investigators and the BC Wildfire Service are looking into what happened.

“There's been lots of specuation, lots of rumour, that potentially it was a camp fire or other things,” said Windsor. “We don't know that and the RCMP and the forest service will ascertain what caused the fire.”

Firefighters remained at the scene on Sunday night building more guards and installing more hose.

“We've rotated all of the forestry and structural crews so now we've got a good perimeter, not only a guard by the air tankers but we're getting a manual guard put in so they're digging it out and we're laying lines up, especially east toward Jack Seaton Park area and we're working on the spot fires within the perimeter now.”

The evacuation order for Nighthawk Road, Long Road and part of Tyndall Road remains in effect.  As well, Jack Seaton Park is closed.

The evacuation order and evacuation alerts on several other areas and roads in Lake Country have been rescinded. Go online and search by address to determine if an area or street is under alert or order.



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