Peachland Fire Evacuees Return Home

09/12/2012 02:09 EDT | Updated 11/12/2012 05:12 EST
PEACHLAND, B.C. - The last of the evacuees from a forest fire that tore through parts of Peachland, B.C., destroying four houses, were given the all-clear to return to their homes Wednesday, three days after they were forced to flee.

The number of evacuees had been steadily decreasing, from 1,550 on Sunday in the hours after the fire broke out to 258 by Wednesday morning.

Those remaining evacuees, who live in the worst-hit areas of Peachland along the northern edge of the community, were permitted to return as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the Regional District of Central Okanagan said in an news release.

The fire started Sunday afternoon in a ditch near a park just outside Peachland and quickly spread in high winds.

The fire moved three kilometres in a little more than an hour, eventually covering two square kilometres. Three homes and an abandoned house were destroyed, and the RCMP facilitated efforts to shuttle horses away from ranches in the path of the fire.

There were no injuries, among either people or animals, officials have said.

The regional district said crews were still working to target hot spots in the fire, which was considered 85 per cent contained as of Wednesday morning.

While the evacuation orders have been rescinded, the 1,550 who were ordered to leave are now on an evacuation alert, meaning they should be prepared to leave at a moment's notice.

The Central Okanagan Regional District warned residents to be cautious of hazardous conditions, such as brittle trees that can fall silently or what are known as "easy bake ovens" — underground burning root structures that can be extremely hot and unstable.

Air tankers fighting the fire dropped fire retardant to stop the fire's spread, and some homes and properties were covered in the red substance. One Peachland woman said she was in her garage when her house and yard was splashed with fire retardant.

The regional district said homeowners whose properties were covered in fire retardant should call the local office of ICL Performance Products, which specializes in fire retardant.

Investigators have not yet said what may have caused the fire.

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