BRITISH COLUMBIA

West Kelowna Wildfire: Evacuation Order Lifted, Residents Allowed Home

07/24/2015 05:06 EDT | Updated 07/24/2015 07:59 EDT

KELOWNA, B.C. - People who were rushed from their homes as a fast-moving wildfire swept through their West Kelowna, B.C., neighbourhood were being allowed to return Friday.

However, they must be prepared to leave again at moments notice.

Seventy properties were ordered evacuated on Monday night, just a day after the lightning-caused fire flared up and spread due to dry conditions and strong winds.

BC Hydro said that customers without power could expect to have the lights back on by Friday afternoon, thanks to temporary diesel generating units.

The units are to provide continuous power to those who have been getting electricity on a rotating basis, BC Hydro said in a statement.

The utility said about 100 customers directly in the fire zone would remain without power until it can repair equipment in the area affected by the Westside Road fire.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Christy Clark visited the area and thanked fire crews who have been working to put out the blaze.

Harper promised to work with officials in both B.C. and Saskatchewan, where fires have forced numerous evacuations, to better co-ordinate resources and fire mitigation.

There were more than 220 active fires burning in B.C. Friday, but cooler temperatures and wet weather have helped in the firefighting effort.

A temporary evacuation centre at the Westside Lions Community Hall opened up on Monday night that was entirely volunteer-run.

Volunteer Margaret Tan said she was inspired to help after having to flee her home during a fire last year. She remembered waking up early the next morning and driving back to her apartment, expecting to see ashes and rubble.

"I found out that none of the houses or structures were burned," she recalled. "I was just washed by such relief that I thought today is the day I have to do some good will."

About 45 volunteers per day came by to help register evacuees, find them accommodation, food, clothing and even medication, said centre manager Catherine Williams.

Next door to the centre, the Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team offered help to families with pets.

Luckily, staff only had to care for a few dogs, including one while a couple went out for dinner, said logistics section chief Melina Grant.

Williams, who is also a volunteer, said with a laugh that she likes to live by the words of Winston Churchill.

"You make a living by what you do. You make a life by what you give," she quoted loosely, before adding: "To be part of a community and not do anything, I don't understand that."

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