The Emergency Social Service Centre is located at the Lakeview Heights Baptist Church at 2630 Alhambra Drive in West Kelowna. —Image: Alistair Waters/Capital News

Wildfire evacuees arrive at West Kelowna reception centre

For one woman it was deja vu. She was evacuated from her Kamloops home in 2003 because of wildfire

After a night in a hotel with her three dogs, worrying about the fate of her home and the her cat who she could not round up when the evacuation order came her Brent Road-area neighbourhood Wednesday night, Maridee Skidmore says she just wants to go home.

Skidmore arrived at the evacuation centre in West Kelowna Thursday morning, saying when she left her home 10 minutes south of Peachland near Brent Road, there was fire all around.

“It was very smoky and there were so many fires,” she said.

She left around 8:30 p.m. after gathering a few belonging, tossing them in her car and rounding up her three dogs.

“It was just horrible—a nightmare,” she said.

With the fire near Peachland closing Highway 97 at various times during the night, an evacuation centre was set up at the Lakeview Baptist Church in West Kelowna. Another centre was set up in Penticton for people farther south. A large fire is also burning near Summerland.

Another evacuee, Rhoda Bradford, went south with her family when she had to flee her home Wednesday night, and stayed with friends near Summerland.

On Thursday morning she arrived at the West Kelowna evacuation centre to register.

“It was awful,” said Bradford recounting her experience the previous evening.

And for her, it was a case of deja vu.

In 2003, living near Kamloops, she was also forced to flee her home due to wildfire.

“This time I knew what to do,” she said.

Catherine Williams, the Emergency Social Services director for the Regional District of Central Okanagan, said only three groups of people were registered at the West Kelowna centre late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning. The centre opened at 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Later in the morning others arrived, including Skidmore, Bradford and a family with two small children.

Williams said her mandate is to look after people for the first 72 hours and the three “households” that arrived during the night were put up in local hotels.

“Right now were are playing by ear,” she said in terms of dealing with more registrations.

She said how many more people her ESS staff may have to deal with at the centre will largely depend on the action and direction of the fire.

Late Wednesday evacuation notices were issued for 7100 to 7210 Brent Road, south of Peachland, and for 7212 to 7289 Highway 97 South, a total of 34 properties.

The fire, known as the Mount Eneas wildfire has also prompted the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen to evacuate nine properties on Highway 97 father south, including the Okanagan Lake provincial campground.

In addition to the evacuation centre in West Kelowna, an evacuation centre has also been set up at the Penticton Community Centre.

The fire are believed to have started as a result of a severe lightening storm that swept through the area Tuesday night.

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