UPDATE: 10:30 p.m.
For the second time in less than a week, the Penticton Community Centre’s gymnasium is receiving evacuees from a fire — this time dozens told to leave their Kaleden homes from a wildfire.
The blaze, last pegged at around five hectares by B.C. Wildfire Service, has displaced dozens of people from at least 30 homes, though officials are still unclear at this time how many have been forced out.
While emergency shelter operator Patty Otteson in Penticton said it was around 30 homes evacuated, acting Fire Chief Denis Gaudry said that number’s likely higher than 100.
“They were shocked when they first saw the smoke; they didn’t realize what was going on,” said Patty Otteson, operator of the emergency shelter in the community centre.
“A lot of people are shocked and they’re surprised, and now they’ve left with nothing and now they’re, of course a little bit anxious and nervous, so we try to calm them down and tell them that we’ll look after their lodging, their food and whatever incidentals they may need.”
Among those incidentals, Otteson said the regional district offers a clothing allowance and things like toothbrushes.
Among the evacuees was Scottish vacationer Gordon McClynont, who said the blaze came about 400 yards from their cabin at Ponderosa Point.
“I saw a plume of smoke initially, and then it just burst into flames, and then it didn’t seem to do anything, and then it really just took off,” he said. “There was a southerly wind, so you just sense it was going to start moving, really, I guess, from the scale of it.”
McClynont said it didn’t take an evacuation notice to get him and his family out of there, adding that the scene was too busy with evacuees and emergency vehicles to even look back.
He added that while it’s unfortunate that his vacation has been affected, he’s feeling more sorry for those who live in the area.
“We’re fine, and we’re safe, and I think that’s the main thing. Other people will probably worse off,” he said.
“It’s quite sobering. It’s one of those things you do see on TV and all of a sudden you’re right beside it.”
Denis Gaudry said firefighters got a call to a tree that was on fire, but that quickly spread due to hot, dry conditions and a bit of wind.
“The fire danger rating goes from one to five, five being the highest. It was five today,” Gaudry said. “You have the perfect mix for fire behaviour we have today.”
Since then, Gaudry added that cooler conditions with more humidity and less wind at night has meant more of a downhill battle than previously trying to fight the fire.
He says it’s likely upwards of 100 homes evacuated, though until he gets a better assessment of the situation, it’s hard to tell.
“I don’t want to give a percentage containment, because we’re working on the different spots right now. The smoke is definitely less, there’s much less orange flame than we’d seen two hours ago,” he said.
“The problem is that the fire has burned spotty, and we were having to go into areas and having to deal with little spot fires that became big.”
Gaudry says a night shift will be tackling the fire overnight, with a full crew set to hit the blaze again in the morning.
At this point, it’s not clear the cause, or even the location of ignition, but because it wasn’t caused by lightning, it was most likely human caused.
This is the second time evacuees were sent to the community centre’s gym following a fire, with former residents of the Highland Motel populating the gym for four days after Wednesday’s fire.
Otteson said four people from that incident are still being put up in the gym.
UPDATE: 7 p.m.
The BC Wildfire Service says 35 forest firefighters continue to battle the blaze alongside the Kaleden Fire Department.
The fire is currently estimated at 5.5 hectares in size.
Reports from the scene indicate one house and one outbuilding has now been lost in the blaze. Officials have not yet confirmed numbers, but RCMP did say at least one home was fully engulfed.
Acting Kaleden fire chief Denis Gaudry says an earlier reported injury was suffered by a firefighter. That firefighter has since been seen by paramedics and is back out battling the blaze.
More details to come.
Update: 6:26 p.m.
Cpl. Don Wrigglesworth with the Penticton RCMP has confirmed that at least one house has caught fire in the blaze in the area of Kaleden.
Wrigglesworth said he saw a house fully engulfed in flames, adding that there have been injuries resulting from the wildfire.
Police are on scene, helping to get people to safety.
Update: 6 p.m.
A wildfire that started just before 4 p.m. near Kaleden continues to burn.
Crews from the B.C. Wildfire service continue to assist the Kaleden Fire Department, along with firefighters from the Penticton department.
According to B.C. Wildfire, there are 35 firefighters battling the blaze, which is still estimated at about one hectare in size. There are also two helicopters and three fixed-wing aircraft responding to the fire; two of the planes are bombers.
There are homes and other structures nearby, but there are currently no evacuation notices or alerts.
Smoke is rising above Kaleden, just outside of Penticton off of Highway 97.
According to B.C. Wildfire Service both the Kaleden fire department and forestry crews are on scene.
Air support is on the way to the blaze.
The fire is estimated to be 1 hectare in size at this time.
Structures are threatened and flames can be seen from the roadside; however an evacuation alert has not yet been put into place.
There is currently no cause for the blaze.
A reporter is headed to the area and more information is to follow.