Michael and Faye Arcand said they only had about 15 to 20 minutes to gather essential items from their home before they were forced to evacuate from Apple Court, the highest part of Heritage Hill, and find safety somewhere else.
“We first saw the fire around 2 – 2:30 p.m. (on Aug. 18). It’s a place where a lot of people hike up, take motorcycles, bikes, that kind of thing,” he said.
Shortly after that, he said crews came to their neighbourhood and put tapes around the houses. They were then told they had to leave right away.
“We had maybe 15 to 20 minutes to pack up, we probably could’ve taken longer, but we had to go. We came downtown (to the EOC). We tried to get a hotel room, but everything was booked. Some of our friends offered us a place to stay, and we ended up staying with our cousin in Kaleden.”
Despite the rushed departure, he said as long as he and Faye have the essentials, they’ve got everything.
“We’ll wait to see when we can go back. I don’t think it’s going to be today. They’ve got boots on the ground and they’ve started water-bombing already… it’s quite close to our house, so we’ll see,” Michael said.
He added that he is grateful for the efforts of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS), the BC Wildfire Service, as well as the firefighters from Penticton and Okanagan Falls.
Mayor of Penticton John Vassilaki shared Michael’s gratitude.
“I want to take a moment to express my sincere appreciation to our fellow local governments who have provided additional firefighters to support the response,” he said in a press conference on Aug. 19 in Penticton.
Vassilaki himself is an evacuee, finding out about the blaze while in council meeting on Tuesday afternoon and much later, finding out his home was under an evacuation order.
“It’s scary. There’s a lot of stuff in our home. My wife and I have been married for almost 51 years, so we have a lot of memories in that house,” he said.
“If we were to lose anything, it’s like losing a part of our life. But we just hope this thing is going to be under control very very soon and that nothing serious happens to anyone.”
He added he wanted to encourage residents not to worry, as the RDOS and the city are working hard to battle the fire.
“We’re doing the best we can, even more than the best we can. We’re constantly in touch with the provincial people to make sure they have enough manpower and equipment in place to try and keep it under control so it doesn’t come within the City of Penticton or even the regional district, trying to keep everybody safe in those areas,” he said.
“To the people who are on evacuation alert, please be ready to move out as fast as possible or at a moment’s notice. We don’t want anybody hurt or to lose any property if we can help it.”