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Penticton establishing protection for structures in event of evacuation

Christie Mountain wildfire, Aug. 20.
Image Credit: Steve Arstad
August 20, 2020 - 1:30 PM

The City of Penticton is preparing this afternoon for strong winds that could cause further evacuations due to the Christie Mountain Wildfire. 

Low visibility was a challenge yesterday for B.C. Wildfire aircraft on the fire, said Nicole Bonnett, B.C. Wildfire information officer, said during a news conference today.

A hundred firefighters and nine helicopters are on scene today battling the blaze located to the south of Penticton and last night, a 10-foot backline, using fire to create a control line, was established on the southwest flank, she said.

Overnight, BC Wildfire crews saw more intense fire near the Skaha Bluffs area, away from homes. As the region enters the hottest part of the day, "we do expect fire activity to pick up," Bonnett said. "We are expected to see some stronger (forecasted) winds from the south which likely means it will push, if those winds come to fruition, back towards town... As a result of the (forecast) we're looking at structure protection in the evacuation alert areas right now."

Mitch Pence, B.C. Wildfire incident commander, said the service is using computer modelling to determine where the fire is going to go, and "if we get some strong winds, our lines will be challenged, for sure," he said.

READ MORE: Christie Mountain wildfire in Penticton grows to 2,000 hectares

Fire activity has been quiet overnight and into this morning, Bonnett said. 

The fire is currently 2,000 hectares in size.

"While that increase does seem a little scary, sometimes it means the fire has expanded out to areas where there might be additional safe work locations for crews on the ground," she said.

With the possibility of strong winds, the City of Penticton is asking residents under an evacuation alert to pre-register for evacuee status online, said Donny Van Dyke, chief administrative officer with the city and in charge of the Penticton Emergency Operations Centre.

Residents may see city and fire crews as early as this afternoon setting up structural protection efforts, which may include setting up equipment, gathering information and talking to residents and neighbours to prepare in the event of an evacuation, he said.

The current Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen and Penticton evacuation alerts and orders remain in effect and the city is preparing in the event that alerts become orders and asks residents to do the same.

"Yesterday we did announce the loss of a home... this is extremely sad news. The RDOS will coordinate a rapid damage assessment and work with the family during this difficult time," said regional district chair Karla Kozakevich.

If you're in an alert area, now is the time to activate an emergency response plan, she said.

The evacuee registration tool can be found online.


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