VANCOUVER, B.C. – More than 600 residents who were forced to flee their homes in B.C.’s Central Okanagan when a blaze that had been 90 per cent contained suddenly jumped a fire guard are now allowed to return.
But another 1,500 aren’t so lucky.
The Regional District of Central Okanagan announced Monday that an evacuation order has been rescinded for some of the residents affected by the Terrace Mountain blaze, north of Kelowna and near Fintry.
“Those allowed to return will remain on evacuation alert and must be prepared as they may have to leave the area again without much notice,” the district said in a news release.
It’s not the first time area residents have received such a warning.
They were originally evacuated on July 23 when the Terrace Mountain fire grew rapidly to more than 40 square kilometres.
Crews thought they had a grip on the fire after two days of rain and residents were allowed to return to their homes on July 30.
But just two days later, they were again forced to leave as gusty winds sent the fire surging along the mountain.
The Terrace Mountain blaze is currently estimated at 90 square kilometres and fire officials say it is 40 per cent contained.
Approximately 633 residents were told they can go home Monday, while 1,517 people remain evacuated. About 360 residents were allowed home last Thursday.
Mitch Miller, fire information officer for the Terrace Mountain blaze, said Monday was another successful day for fire crews.
“Things are looking pretty good,” he said.
Crews conducted a successful 300-hectare burn-off at the fire site Sunday, preventing the blaze from spreading further north.
“Our northern flank is looking much better,” Miller said. “We’ve got favourable weather conditions, cloudy skies, cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity.”
Crews spent Monday patrolling the northern flank for flare-ups and widening fire guards. More than 400 firefighters are on the scene and are being supported by 17 helicopters and 96 pieces of heavy equipment.
Miller said the firefighters, while tired, have received a real boost from the community.
“Some locals whose homes were saved stopped by with 121 fresh-baked pies for the firefighters,” he said.
“We had some for supper (Sunday) night and I can tell you this Okanagan fruit is second to none.”
Kim Steinbart, an information officer with the B.C. Forest Service, said cooler temperatures in recent days have helped firefighters throughout the province.
“We’re optimistic for the next few days,” Steinbart said, adding that some areas have gotten their first heavy dose of rain in weeks.
“It looks like any precipitation we’re going to see from around the province will happen in the next three days or so. … Some areas did receive significant precipitation already, particularly in mountainous areas on the coast.”
But, Steinbart cautioned, some areas might not see any precipitation this week and with some of the larger fires, it will take 20 to 40 millimetres of rain before any impact is felt.
Miller said the only rain near Terrace Mountain is in the forecast.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said.
About 2,400 fires have been recorded in B.C. since April 1, spanning more than 1,100 square kilometres.
About 1,850 British Columbians remain on evacuation order in all, affecting communities like Seton Portage, Pemberton Meadows, Yalakom Valley, and Intlpam.