Smith Creek Wildfire: Danger decreases, though fire only 50 per cent contained
While it is only estimated at 50 per cent contained, firefighters have wrangled the Smith Creek wildfire back enough to send 2000 people evacuated from their homes back to their own beds this evening.
At its worst Thursday evening, the fire came 200 metres from houses at the top of Tallus Ridge, in Shannon Lake, but officials on hand for a press conference called for noon Sunday remain optimistic they now have the upper hand.
"Hopefully, by the end of the day we can take that 50 per cent number and up it again a little bit. It's been slow doing," said Wayne Schnitlzer, incident commander.
The 50 per cent is an estimate—and a subjective one at that. There is guard along the north, south and west borders of the fire, which held well yesterday. The guard in the middle needs a lot of reinforcement.
"We really appreciate the support we received from the community in helping people who are still out (of their homes)," said Mayor Doug Findlater. "We had some great support from residents, in terms of places to stay, and some businesses."
Findlater praised all of the firefighters, Emergency Operations Centre staff and RCMP involved in fighting the fire for risking their lives to help save the community. He also issued a plea to everyone travelling through, or living in West Kelowna, to be vigilant about fire, cigarettes and other hazards, which could cause another blaze.
The Wildfire Management Branch is ramping efforts up with 80 firefighters on the ground today, an increase of 15 personnel over yesterday. Aircraft and helicopters will remain status quo, working the fire from above as evacuated residents slowly return to parts of the Smith Creek, Alexandria, Tallus Ridge and Shannon Woods neighbourhoods.
As per usual, there were residents who chose to evade the evacuation order. Findlater said one individual on Dixie Road was even using his own heavy duty equipment to build a personal fire break.
Those returning to their homes will have power and water, although it may take a few minutes for the water lines to clear.
"Because various hydrants have been opened and closed during the firefight, what some residents may note is that the water is a little bit brown to start. All they really need to do is run the tap for about 30 seconds and it will all flush out," said Jason Luciw, District of West Kelowna communications.
The areas remaining under evacuation order are:
Smith Creek Nieghbourhood:
- Dixie Road
Tallus Ridge Neighbourhood:
- Big sky Drive
- Mountains Hollow Lane
- Paramount Drive
- Ryser Place
- Tallus Heights Drive
- Tallus Green Cres.
- Tallus Green Place
Shannon Woods Nieghbourhood:
- Shannon Hills Drive
- Shannon Hills Place
- Shannon Heights Court
- Shannon Heights Place