WATCH: Many residents are still under an evacuation order. Some, however, are ignoring it, and that’s a big concern for emergency crews who have to respond if something goes wrong. Nadia Stewart reports on the people who stayed in their homes, and why they did it.
Two fires were raging near the picturesque tourist town of Oliver in the Okanagan Valley. Though residents affected by the three-square-kilometre Wilson Mountain fire were allowed home Saturday, about 100 homes near the 15-square kilometre Testalinden Creek fire remain under evacuation order.
“The fire activity out there this morning has been quite a bit milder than what we were seeing last night,” Kevin Skrepnek, chief fire information officer for the BC Wildfire Service, said Saturday.
“Certainly there’s still a lot of work to do out there. The fire at this point is zero per cent contained, but we’re not seeing that incredibly aggressive wind event that came through the area yesterday,” he added.
The Wilson Mountain fire is now estimated at 317 hectares in size. Officials lifted the evacuation order Saturday, but residents in the affected area are still on an evacuation alert.
The Testalinden Creek fire is now estimated at 1,566 hectares, and 100 homes have been evacuated.
One home has also been lost.
However, the fires pose a smaller threat than the previous day, when officials said both blazes posed an imminent threat to the homes on the western edge of the town of 5,000.
WATCH: Night time footage of wildfires spreading near Oliver
On Friday night, close to 300 people registered at the Emergency Reception Centre in Oliver. Most were able to find a place to stay, however some spent the night at the town’s community centre.
Doug and Denisse Allan were forced to retreat to the centre, after watching the fire rapidly approach their home.
“It came a thousand feet from our house,” said Doug.
From the centre, he has a clear view of his home, so he knew early this morning it was fine.
“I can look across the valley and I can see the house and there’s grass around it so it wasn’t bburned but all around it is pretty much black,” he said.
Others were too scared to leave their home–some even ignoring the evacuation order and staying in their homes.
JC Oliveira heeded the order, but he didn’t go far. He loaded up the family van and parked across the street so he could watch fire crews fight to save the homes on his street.
Returning today before the evacuation order was lifted, he and his neighbours are a lot less on edge.
“See the fire over there is pretty extinguished. It cannot burn more than it already did,” said Oliveira.
Dozens of fruit trees that served as the makeshift fire guard were scorched and she expects they’ll have to be replanted.
“But that’s Mother Nature,” Souto said. “You can’t stress out about it.”
The region’s agricultural backbone may have prevented more extensive losses, said a spokesman for the Oliver Fire Department.
READ MORE: Wildfire near Oliver threatens local wineries
“Some of those orchards and vineyards that kept stuff green definitely saved those areas,” said Rob Graham, who was among 30
members of the department who assisted provincial crews.
“There were structures threatened, but that’s why we were there.”
Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes said approximately 300 people registered Friday night at an emergency reception centre in town. Upwards of 40 evacuees slept there, while others spent the night in their vehicles or bunked with friends and family.
He described the mood Saturday morning as “pretty calm.” following a fitful night.
“Last night it was pretty horrific when you’re at the foot of the hill… and watching flames licking at the backs of houses. It was pretty tense,” Hovanes said.
“And the smoke was thick. You could hardly breathe.”
– With files from Nadia Stewart
GALLERY: Photos of the Oliver fire (all pictures courtesy @br_webb/HomoCulture广州桑拿网)