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UPDATE: Firefighters fought epic battles to save houses in Bear Creek wildfire

A burned out truck at the scene of the Bear Creek fire, Monday, Aug. 22, 2016.
August 23, 2016 - 6:57 AM

UPDATE: 6:52 a.m. Aug. 23: Crews achieved 60 per cent containment overnight but the evacuation orders and alerts remain in effect. 

UPDATE: 7:06 p.m Aug. 22

CORD Emergency says all evacuation orders and alerts will remain in effect overnight.

KELOWNA - The late start to the Bear Creek fire forced firefighters to do a emergency evacuation of the Bear Creek campground in darkness with raging wildfire just up the road.

“It was full of tourists. Our priority was the safe evacuation of the campsite and we accomplished that in a calm, orderly manner,” West Kelowna Fire Rescue chief Jason Brolund says.

At one point, campers told to go north, ended up having to turn around and take refuge at Lake Okanagan Resort, he says.

Beyond that, Brolund says firefighters from three different departments fought desperate batttles to save individual houses with the flames stopping at the front door of one house.

“We had innummerable challenges including downed power lines. At one point, we could not pass from one side (of the fire) to the other without great risk,” the chief says. “I’m proud to say no homes have been lost.”

Brolund described the fire as still active and about 25 hectares in size although the cooler weather and periodic rain in the area have helped temper the blaze.

Some 26 personnel, including firefighters from Peachland, West Kelowna and North Westside Fire Rescue, are working the fire, Brolund says.

Skimmer aircraft spent the morning scooping water from Okanagan Lake and dumping it on the fire, however they shut down operations at noon.

The emergency operations centre has announced campers forced to leave their gear behind during the evacuation will be allowed in to retrieve it today, Aug. 22, until 8 p.m. and tomorrow at 8 a.m.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation with no indications yet of the cause, Brolund says.

Evacuation orders for 51 properties along Bear Creek Road have been downgraded to evacuation alerts, joining another 14 properties in Pine Point subdivision. However, 105 properties in Traders Cover and Bear Creek Provincial Park remain under evacuation order and Westside Road is still closed between Traders Cove and the provincial park.

So far 60 residents have registered at the emergency support reception centre, located at 2466 Main St. in the Lions Hall in West Kelowna.

A firefighter works a ridge putting out hot spots in the Bear Creek wildfire, Monday, Aug. 22, 2016
A firefighter works a ridge putting out hot spots in the Bear Creek wildfire, Monday, Aug. 22, 2016

— This story was updated at 4:21 p.m., Monday, Aug. 22, 2016 to update evacuation orders and alerts.


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