Fire crews continue work to douse Kaleden wildfire - InfoNews.ca

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Fire crews continue work to douse Kaleden wildfire

Residents express their thanks to emergency crews at the Community Hall in Kaleden on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.
July 05, 2017 - 2:31 PM

PENTICTON - Kaleden residents are breathing easier today following the chaos yesterday when a wildfire broke out in the southeast part of the community.

Emergency personnel filled the streets, cordoning off intersections and lining Lakehill Road around the firehall after the fast spreading fire broke out around 3:45 p.m., July 4.

Moderate winds threatened to overwhelm firefighters before lessening later in the evening, giving them a chance to overtake the flames.

B.C. Wildfire says the 6.5 hectare fire is being held.

“That means we think we’ve got enough resources it shouldn’t grow any bigger in size,” acting Kaleden fire chief Denis Gaudry says.

Kaleden volunteer firefighters and B.C. Wildfire crews are conducting patrols as they look for hot spots within the fire and spot fires outside the main fire area.

Firefighters were unable to save this Oak Street home from burning in yesterday's fire in Kaleden, July 4, 2017.
Firefighters were unable to save this Oak Street home from burning in yesterday's fire in Kaleden, July 4, 2017.

“There was an area where they found 24 hot spots while working the upper side of Oak Street alone,” Gaudry says.

He says one home was lost and a nearby outbuilding burned, but no other major damage has been reported.

Gaudry says the evacuation order has been lifted but the advisory will remain in place for 186 residences.

“Our plan was to get everyone back in their homes as soon as possible,” he says.

The conditions for an intense wildfire have been building this season, making fire danger and risk much higher than in previous years.

“The area is an intermix of grasses, pine needles and coniferous trees and with the wind, it was spotting 300 metres. I saw flame heights in the neighbourhood of 15 metres, spotting across Oak Street and burning grasses up rows of vineyards,” he says.

RCMP issue evacuation notices to residents on Ponderosa Drive in Kaleden at the height of yesterday's wildfire.
RCMP issue evacuation notices to residents on Ponderosa Drive in Kaleden at the height of yesterday's wildfire.

Gaudry says firefighters lucked out yesterday, commending the B.C. Wildfire crews and firefighters from Okanagan Falls and Penticton who also raced to the scene to help out.

“We had the right amount of resources at the right place... and were fortunate the tankers and helicopters were on site as soon as they were,” he says. “With the extreme fire danger and the 20 kilometre winds, we were lucky, because the winds slowed down later in the day, giving us the opportunity to catch it."

It was a bad location for the fire to start in, with the long grasses, but it could have been worse."

Kaleden resident Norm Swerdfeger says he arrived home from work to find a chaotic scene unfolding before him on the streets below his Linden Avenue residence.

“I didn’t know how long it had been burning before I got home, but I watched as the house burned. Trees were candling all around me,” he says, adding he set sprinklers up on his roof and was packed and ready to go last night.

“It was a pretty scary evening. I’ve still got the sprinklers on the roof,” Swerdfeger says.

The fire, which started along Oak Street, is human-caused, but it remains under investigation.

Flames destroyed an outbuilding shown above, and a residence in yesterday's fast moving wildfire in the community, July 4, 2017.
Flames destroyed an outbuilding shown above, and a residence in yesterday's fast moving wildfire in the community, July 4, 2017.

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