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Local state of emergency, thousands under evacuation alert due to Okanagan wildfires

Last Updated Jul 20, 2018 at 12:10 pm PDT

Mount Eneas wildfire as seen through smoky skies by a BC Wildfire Service air attack officer on July 19. (Courtesy BC Wildfire Service)

Mt. Eneas fire has exploded from 200 to 1,000 hectares

About 2,000 people affected by an evacuation alert, dozens are under an evacuation order in the Okanagan

PEACHLAND (NEWS 1130) – A local state of emergency has been declared in Peachland, as a number of wildfires continue to rage in the Southern and Central Okanagan.

Around 2,000 people are dealing with an evacuation alert. They have been told to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

Over the past day or so, the Mt. Eneas fire has exploded from 200 to 1,000 hectares. The fire remains out of control.

Thirty-eight properties have been ordered evacuated due to the threat of that wildfire, in addition to 43 properties evacuated yesterday in the neighbouring Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

Gordon Fitzpatrick runs Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards, which is affected by that order.

“We just opened our doors a little over a year ago,” he tells us. “In these situations, mother nature… you can’t mess with her.”

“It was nice to see everybody so dedicated and doing all of the extra things to do whatever they can. Let’s hope that the winds calm down,” he adds.

The Central Okanagan Regional District says people living in three homes that were ordered cleared late last night have been allowed to return today, but other evacuees continue to be directed to reception centres in West Kelowna and Penticton.

Highway 97 between Peachland and Summerland was either fully or partially closed for the past couple of days. The route has since completely re-opened to traffic.

The Law Creek fire is also burning near West Kelowna. It is only eight hectares in size, but it has led to an evacuation alert there. Nearly 500 people are affected.

The province has recalled all of its wildfire crews that were on loan in other parts of the country. And with things aready dry and very windy, they’re facing an uphill battle because of the weather.

NEWS 1130 Meteorologist Michael Kuss says there is some precipitation in the forecast, but, “most of the rain will be in the Thompson and North Okanagan regions, and farther to the north.”

“The negative effects from this system will be experienced in the South Okanagan, and that’s where we have pretty serious forest fire concerns. What we are going to see over the next could of days is stronger winds and the potential for some lightning,” he adds.

It’s believed all of the fires in the Central and South Okanagan were caused by lighting strikes earlier in the week.

 – With files from the Canadian Press