UPDATE: Embers biggest concern for firefighters in upper east side of Penticton | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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UPDATE: Embers biggest concern for firefighters in upper east side of Penticton

Image Credit: BC Wildfire Service
August 21, 2020 - 1:09 PM

Penticton's fire chief says the biggest concern for firefighters in the upper east side of the city is embers that could blow into neighbourhoods causing spot fires.

Penticton Fire Chief Larry Watkinson is leading the regional command and working with the B.C. Wildfire incident management team, focusing on structural protection in the city today, Aug. 21.

There are 110 firefighters from across the province, and 61 firefighting apparatus that are helping out in Penticton, he said.

Firefighters are focusing on the upper east side of Penticton and upper Carmi area.

"As we move forward, we will continue to have these apparatus in Penticton for the safety of the residents and protection of their homes until the threat is no longer considered severe," he said.

READ MORE: Penticton residents can do nothing but watch and wait while firefighters prepare

The winds have picked up this morning, and Watkinson said firefighters are most concerned about embers starting new fires in neighbourhoods ahead of the fire itself.

"The area has some second-generation growth as we've had a fire through that area in 1994 so although that has been burnt off already once, there is some significant fuels up there. Our concern is that fuels carrying through with the wind and then landing into the community and starting spot fires."

Structural firefighters and equipment will be patrolling the areas to prevent spot fires from igniting structures, he said.

Watkinson referenced a trigger point in the upper Skaha bluffs area based on fire behavior. If that point is passed, then a state of emergency will be activated and evacuation orders given, he said. Wet lines are being set up around the perimeter of homes facing the interface fire, to create a humidity bubble to help reduce ember, he said.

He hasn't seen active embers at this time, he said.

Residents will have upwards of four hours to evacuate if an order comes, based on the fire's growth potential, he said, but added the fire can change quickly and the trigger point may change depending on fire behaviour.

READ MORE: Central Okanagan firefighters lending their support to Penticton

B.C. Wildfire structural protection strike teams will be arriving today as a precaution should strong winds blow the Christie Mountain wildfire blows towards Penticton.

Penticton fire chief Larry Watkinson at a news conference, Aug. 21.
Penticton fire chief Larry Watkinson at a news conference, Aug. 21.
Image Credit: City of Penticton

Nicole Bonnett, fire information officer with B.C. Wildfire Service, said mapping the fire has been a challenge because of smoke. It's still listed at 2,000 hectares. That number is expected to be updated this afternoon, Aug. 21, she said.

The fire behaviour is currently at a rank 1, which means a lot of smoke and few flames, she said.  Currently 132 B.C. Wildfire firefighters are on site with 15 helicopters. This doesn't include structural protection teams, she said.

Current, evacuation orders and alerts remain in effect for Penticton and the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

A total of 2,885 people have pre-registered for evacuee status with an online tool as of Aug. 20, said Erick Thompson, Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen information officer with the Emergency Operations Centre, adding 161 people have registered at the reception centre in Penticton, and 103 have received lodging. The others remain with friends and family.

More than 1,400 Penticton households have pre-registered, said Donny Van Dyke, chief administrative officer with the city.

Thompson urged those on evacuation alert to pre-register for evacuee status using the ESS online tool.

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