NEWS

Wildfire triggers West Kelowna evacuation alert

07/30/2012 11:29 EDT | Updated 09/29/2012 05:12 EDT
An evacuation alert has been issued for approximately 50 properties in the Wilson's Landing area of West Kelowna, B.C., after a wildfire jumped a fireguard late Sunday night.

The fire was sparked by lightning on Friday and was declared contained by noon on Sunday.

However, on Sunday night winds in the area picked up and fanned the flames and on Monday morning officials said what was a fire of 4.4 hectares had grown to 26.6 hectares, and was only 20 per cent contained.

By Monday afternoon, crews had established a guard on the north flank of the fire.

Early Monday morning, officials with the Regional District of Central Okanagan issued an evacuation alert for 40 to 50 homes in the Jenny Creek subdivision — and those along Blue Grouse Road, Browse Road and parts of Westside Road, all in the Wilson's Landing area of West Kelowna.

The fire closed a 14-kilometre section of Westside Road from Bear Creek Road to Browse Road for much of the day as fire crews carried out a controlled burn. The road was reopened to single-lane alternating traffic Monday afternoon.

Fire information officer Michaela Swan said 77 firefighters and five helicopters and two air tankers made progress on the fire Monday, but the hot and dry weather has made the job challenging.

"We're still seeing open flame with a few trees torching. There's stumps burning, there's still smoke visible — a bit of open flame on the road. The more active part of the fire is on the top," she said.

B.C. firefighters head north

Lightning also sparked 20 new fires over the weekend in the Prince George fire region. All those new fires have either been put out or are under control, but four fires of note were still burning as of Monday.

The most active is the Capot-Blanc fire near Fort Nelson, and fire information officer Jillian Chimko said nearby oil and gas developments are on alert.

"We still have the infrastructure in the area. We have a camp, a drill site and a switching station that all have structural protection units set up around them. But at this time they're not at risk."

Chimko said this year has been an average fire season for the Prince George fire centre, with 212 fire starts to date. About half of the fires were caused by lightning, and the other half were caused by humans.

The province has also sent a crew of 23 firefighters to the Northwest Territories to fight wildfires. This is the fifth region B.C. fire crews have been deployed to this year.

The province said it still has around 500 firefighters at 30 bases in B.C. to respond to forest fires.

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