Tuesday, September 6, 2011

West Kelowna Forest Fire -September 6, 2011.

Forest fire near Kelowna apparently human-caused say police

KELOWNA, B.C.— Special to Globe and Mail Update

A wildfire near West Kelowna, B.C. that has forced the evacuation of approximately 550 people appears to be human-caused, police say.

The fire was reported shortly after 10 p.m. Monday night on a steep hillside near Bear Creek Provincial Park. Dale Bojahra, incident commander with the B.C. Wildfire Branch, described it as an “aggressive surface fire” that quickly grew from about three hectares to almost 39 hectares.

Flames came within 400 metres of homes in the Traders Cove subdivision along Westside Road. Police evacuated 106 homes and about 550 people, including 100 campers from the provincial park.

Another 25 to 30 homes are under an evacuation alert. Residents have been told to be ready to flee at a moments notice.

At a press conference, RCMP Corporal Dan Moskaluk, said investigators believe people caused the fire but could not elaborate.

“At this point the priority is the evacuation of the area and the well-being of the residents,” he said.

The fire is about 30 per cent contained, said Mr. Bojahara, and while no structures are currently in danger, crews are concerned about fire escaping the fire guards they have set up.

“We're a long ways from being contained at this point,” said Mr. Bojahra.

Approximately 18 West Kelowna firefighters are working on the blaze, along with 16 personnel from the provincial Wildfire Branch. They are being helped by four helicopters with water buckets.

It's a hot, sunny day in West Kelowna and with temperatures expected to be in the 30s, fire crews are bracing for a challenging day, said Mr. Bojahra.

The forested areas around Kelowna and West Kelowna are prone to wildfires but with an unusually wet and cool July, it was a tame summer. Last month however, was the fifth-driest August on record and fire season appears to have finally arrived.

“This year I wasn't anticipating this,” said West Kelowna Fire Chief, Wayne Schnitzler. “I thought we were through the season.”


See also CBC report

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