Evacuated Peachland residents who arrived at the Emergency Social Services reception centre set up in the Westbank Lions Community Hall Sunday evening said they had little time to prepare to leave.
“I was out during the day and when I got home my neighbour called and asked if I had heard about the evacuation alert,” said Peachland school board trustee Moyra Baxter. “The next thing I knew the police were in the street telling us to leave.”
Many of the evacuees and those on evacuation alert — roughly 1,500 according to the regional district — left with the clothes on their backs, their pets and a few personal belongings.
“I only had a few minutes,” said Joe Zucchero, who lives on Trepanier Bench Road.
He said he grabbed his dog Maya, his iPad and bolted as quickly as possible.
“I saw the flames as I drove down Trapanier Bench Road.
For others, like Charles Kilpatrick, who left with the three other people in his house on Sutherland Rand, and his dog Scooby, the flames were too close for comfort.
He said he saw two houses on fire, one in the Desert Pines area and another above the Hainle Vineyards Winery, which is located on Trepanier Road.
Kilpatrick, said he managed to spray down the outside of his house with water before leaving.
A seven-year resident of the area, he said he remembered watching fires like this before elsewhere in the Central Okanagan — the Glenrosa fire in 2009, the one near Seclusion Bay in 2010 and even the Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire that hit the southern area of the Mission in Kelowna in 2003.
Sunday’s fire in Peachland was “eerie,” he said because the day was so similar to the day the Glenrosa fire started, warm and extremely windy, with a wind that kept changing directions.
At its height, the wind was estimated to be blowing at 40 kilometres per hour with gusts up to 60 kilometres per hour.
Tales of picking up and leaving in a hurry were common at the reception centre in Westbank.
As people streamed in, they told tales of seeing the flames and the heavy smoke as the fled.
Fifteen-year-old Raine Dionne, who along with his sister Denver, 13, and his cousin Alax Ross, 17, left with their dog Kiba and said his mom stayed in the area to help evacuate the large number of horses that are kept on properties in the Trepanier area.
A large number of horse trailers were seen heading into the area to rescue the animals.
As of late Sunday there was no word on the plight of another widlife centre, Parrot Island, a sanctuary for rescued parrots that is located right in the middle of the fire area in Trepanier.
Dionne said he smelled smoke earlier in the day and then saw large clouds of black smoke carried by the strong winds descend on his Dryden Road home.
He said given how fast the smoke was moving, he thought the flames would not be far behind so after texting his mother quickly gathered up some essentials and left with his sister and cousin and the family dog.
The fire is believed to have started in the Trepanier area where there are a lot of dead trees that have not been removed, said Kilpatrick.
As darkness fell Sunday, the planes and helicopters fighting the fire from the air had to be grounded for safety reasons but firefighters on the ground were expected to keep fighting the flames during the night.
Regional district information officer Bruce Smith said as of 7:15 p.m. Sunday, the evacuation order covering 593 properties (an estimated 950 people) had been issued and and another 375 properties, with an estimated 600 people, were on evacuation alert in the Peachland area.
For information about the areas covered by the order and the alert, and for other related information, go to cordemergency.ca