Lake Country fire chief: There wasn’t much more we could do

Fire chief applauds crews for minimizing loss of homes in Okanagan Centre blaze

The initial response of Lake Country firefighters to the Okanagan Centre wildfire kept the Okanagan Centre fire from doing even more damage to the community.

That was the word from fire chief Steve Windsor, looking back on on his crews’ response to the blaze a week ago today.

EXTRA: Police looking for public tips in Okanagan Centre fire

EXTRA: Lake Country forum talks about retardant in wake of fire

But while many homes along Tyndall and Nighthawk roads and beyond were saved, the eight homes that were lost weigh heavily on the firefighters, said Windsor.

Looking back in hindsight, Windsor said his firefighting contingent, five full-time firefighters and 60 paid on-call members, along with supporting crews, should not be second guessing themselves.

“We lost some homes and that’s always difficult for us but we also saved a lot of homes,” Windsor said. “There is not much else we could have done.

“We are appreciative of the support we also received from other fire departments because without them, we would have been in a lot more trouble.”

Fed by gusting winds, Windsor said the fast-moving fire raced up a steep hillside incline from Okanagan Lake Road West that offered no access for a fire truck to set up.

Evacuees had little time to flee from their homes because of the speed of the fire advancing, which also made it a challenge for firefighters to get ahead of the flames initially.

Windsor said last weekend, Lake Country had six firefighters and equipment assisting with the firefighting efforts in the Central Interior, but they were summoned home immediately when the Okanagan Centre wildfire broke out.

“(After the fire), our focus was on cleaning up the hotspots which will go on for awhile so we’ll take a wait and see attitude about deploying our people elsewhere for the moment,” Windsor said.

“Our on-call people also have full-time jobs so this is all pretty stressful on them as well.”

While the source of the fire remains under investigation beyond the confirmation it was human caused, Windsor said fire conditions remain extreme and will likely continue at that level for days to come.

Windsor said both evacuated residents returning home to a fire zone and residents in general have to be “very, very careful” about the fire hazard.

 

Steep terrain that confronted firefighters as they tried to prevent the Okanagan Centre wildlife from burning people’s homes. Image Credit: Barry Gerding/Black Press