Apex Mountain residents relieved, happy to be home after Keremeos Creek Wildfire forces them out for over two weeks

Evacuees glad to be home

Casey Richardson

The entire village of Apex Mountain Resort was welcomed back home on Tuesday after the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen announced their evacuation orders were lifted from the Keremeos Creek Wildfire.

Residents on Wednesday expressed relief on getting to come back after being away for 16 days.

“I mean, obviously, it feels great to see the work that has gone into protecting this place,” Whitney Wynn said. “Coming home to our fire department and the volunteers, and seeing how tired they are and how hard they've been working, it's really heartwarming to know that we have such a great community up here.”

“It’s very relieving, actually. It felt really good to come up to the higher elevations and to get out of the buzz of the town. That is why we live up here,” Margaret Wilkinson added.

Wynn and Wilkinson had both found out about the evacuation orders initially when they were away from their homes.

“It's difficult to watch from afar because we're all getting updates and we see that we have community members taking care of everything and doing everything they can to keep the community safe. But you do want to be here, you want to help and pitch in, but there's nothing to do,” Wynn said.

“So, just kind of going along with everything that all the information that's being passed around. You just kind of have to trust that other communities have gone through this, there is a system in place, and we just need to kind of take a deep breath and follow along with what we're being told.”

Piles of firewood are still stacked outside of homes, along with anything else that could be flammable or combustible near the homes. This work was done by the crews that arrived from across the province in the early days of the fire to help with structural protection at the ski village.

“In those first few days, we were just doing critical things, throwing sprinklers up on houses and moving firewood away. Trying to make houses as safe as possible,” Molly Raine, the Fire Prevention Officer with Apex Volunteer Fire Rescue said.

Firefighters worked a minimum of 12-hour long shifts.

“As the days went on, and there was less and less risk of the fire reaching Apex, we fine-tuned those sprinkler systems, cleaned up a little bit more, just in the event that the fire did come back up here.”

The Apex Fire Brigade worked alongside the BC Wildfire Service Crews deploying FireSmart tactics at every single property at the resort.

“It was a unique experience because Apex Volunteer Fire Rescue got to be here and we got to have a little bit of an opinion on what happened and it really was to our advantage because we were able to help out the other crews to locate addresses and stuff like that faster,” Raine added.

One person providing updates on the work being done was Apex Mountain general manager James Shalman.

“I guess maybe a few reasons why I put together a couple of videos were so the residents could see behind the scenes, the effort that went in because how are they supposed to know,” he said. “It's nice to see just how much effort went in and went into setting everything out but also the takedown.”

The fire is just under 7,000 hectares in size as of Wednesday morning's BC Wildfire Service update and is still classified as active fire.

“We're still not 100% out of the woods yet because you never know the fire is still active and it's not contained,” Shalman said. “You just never know when you have a fire below you.”

“But as of the evacuation order and it being rescinded, we're very relieved, we're very happy that the residents get to go back home and get to sleep in their own beds.”

Residents continually expressed their immense gratitude towards the firefighters and the other teams in their protection work.

“Thanks to everybody who was up here and took the time to do the prep work and keep busy and just, you know, see us succeeding and keeping the structures up. Nobody likes a forest fire,” Wilkinson said.

More Penticton News