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UPDATE: More West Kelowna evacuees going home

District of West Kelowna mayor Doug Findlater (left) speaks with reporters at a media conference at the Kelowna main fire hall on Sunday, July 20,2014. He is joined by West Kelowna fire chief Wayne Schnitzler (centre) and B.C. Wildfire Management incident commander Gary Heland (right).
July 20, 2014 - 5:08 PM

WEST KELOWNA - Even more Smith Creek wildfire evacuees went home Sunday.

As of 5 p.m., the staff at the Emergency Operation Centre lifted the evacuation order for more streets in the Shannon Woods nighbourhood in West Kelowna. The evacuation alert has been lifted for Bartley Road and Lenz Road.

About 2,000 of the 2,500 West Kelowna residents evacuated were allowed to return home at 11 a.m. Sunday.

The people heading home remain on evacuation alert and have been advised to be ready to leave their homes with little or short notice.

The RCMP were present on the roadblocks to make sure the evacuees’ return was peaceful and orderly.

“Many people are going home, not quite everyone, but I’m pleased that’s happening,” West Kelowna mayor Doug Findlater said at a media conference at the main Kelowna fire hall on Sunday. “Our community has been through this a few times now... we are obviously a very resilient community.”

The remaining evacuation orders will be evaluated late Sunday once members of the Unified Incident Command review the progress made fighting the human caused wildfire during the day.

B.C. Wildfire Management incident commander Gary Harland said the 80 firefighters on the ground are making real good progress and the 260-hectare blaze is 50 percent contained.

The crews are making real good progress under difficult conditions, he said.

They are busing consolidating the guards on the north, south and west sides of the fire, as well as the fire lines in the middle and along the top of the ridge where most of the smoke is coming from.

We’re busy moving to consolidate lines especially in the middle where it’s smoking so much and along the top of the ridge.

The air tankers were not utilized Sunday, but the helicopters continued to drop water on the wildfire.

“Hopefully by the end of the day we can take that 50 per cent number and up it again,” Harland said. It’s expected fires within the perimeter will burn for several weeks.

When asked what prompted the decision to allow most of the evacuees to go home, he said explained it’s all about how much of the fire is contained, how much fuel has been consumed by the flames and how solid their guards are.

Harland admits a lot of the decision was based on the high degree of confidence he has in West Kelowna fire chief Wayne Schnitzler and his staff.

“If things go wrong on us I know they (West Kelowna Fire Rescue) can reverse things and keep people out of harm’s way.”

For the roughly 500 people who are still under the evacuation order, the Emergency Support Services reception centre at Mount Boucherie Senior Secondary School will stay open. They are being asked to check-in at the reception centre to get more food and accommodation vouchers.

“It’s a very good day for us to be able to let a lot of citizens go home in West Kelowna,” Schnitzler said. He went on to stress returning residents need to be aware their neighbourhoods will be busy with fire trucks.

“We really need to stress people must not wander into the fire area,” he said.

During the height of the fire on Thursday and Friday, the flames came within 200 or 300 metres of homes in the Tallus Ridge area.

Findlater had nothing but praise for the municipal and wildfire crews.

“They really do put themselves in harms way. They risk their lives that is noted and really, really appreciated.”

The Evacuation Order is rescinded but an Evacuation Alert remains in effect for the following areas:

The following roads in the Smith Creek Neighbourhood:
·         Asquith Road
·         Bridal Hill Court
·         Bridal Hill Drive
·         Copper Ridge Drive
·         Copper Ridge Court
·         Copper Ridge Place
·         Copper Ridge Way
·         Doucette Drive
·         Harold Road
·         Ironridge Place
·         Ironridge Road
·         Rhinestone Road
·         Shetler Drive
·         Sandberg Road
·         Sageview Road
·         Saddleridge Drive
·         Sugosa Place
·         Salish Road
·         Smith Creek Road
·         Stone Ridge Drive
·         Summerview Place
·         Summerview Court
·         Telcor Place
·         Twin Place
·         Whispering Hills Drive
·         Wild Horse Drive

The following roads in the Alexandria Neighbourhood:
·         Alexandria Way
·         Shannon Lake Road

The following roads/properties in the Tallus Ridge Neighbourhood:
·         Boulder Lake Boulevard
·         Cobblestone Road
·         Pebble Place
·         Stone Grove Crescent
·         Tuscany Drive
·         Tallus Ridge Drive including 2390 Tallus Ridge Drive

The following roads in the Shannon Woods Neighbourhood:
·         Shannon Woods Drive
·         Shannon Woods Place
·         Shannon Woods Way
·         Shannon Woods Cres
·         Shannon Hills Drive
·         Shannon Hills Place
·         Shannon Heights Court
·         Shannon Heights Place

The Evacuation Order is still in effect for:

The following properties/roads in the Smith Creek Neighbourhood:
·         All properties accessed off Dixie Road

The following properties/roads in the Tallus Ridge Neighbourhood including the following roads:
·         Big Sky Drive
·         Mountains Hollow Lane
·         Paramount Drive
·         Ryser Place
·         Tallus Heights Drive
·         Tallus Green Crescent
·         Tallus Green Place

The Evacuation Alert has been lifted for Bartley Road and Lenz Road.



When returning home, be cautious in your neighborhood and watch out for:
·         charred power poles and trees that may be unstable and fall.
·         live power lines lying on the ground.
·         small fires that may flare up without warning.
·         ash pits, which are holes filled with hot ash created by burned trees.

Interior Health provides useful information for residents returning to their homes. It deals with exposure to smoke from forest fires, food safety, water quality and septic tanks and disposal fields:

https://www.interiorhealth.ca/YourEnvironment/EmergencyPreparedness/Pages/Forest-Fires.aspx 

Go to www.cordemergency.ca for the latest news and updated maps of the Evacuation Order and Evacuation Alert areas. Read updated posts at www.facebook.com/CORDEmergency or follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/CO_Emerg. The public information line is 250-469-8490.

— This story was updated at 12:19 p.m. Sunday, July 20, 2014 to add the number of residents and homes.

— This story was updated at 2:21 p.m. Sunday, July 20, 2014 to add comments from a media conference.

— This story was updated at 5:07 p.m. Sunday, July 20, 2014 to include more properties moved from evacuation order to alert.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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