bc-100712-tolko-fire

The fire started in a pile of wood chips before spreading to the log yard at the Tolko mill near Armstrong, B.C., on Sunday. ((Vernon Morning Star))

Several hundred people living near a B.C. sawmill log yard that caught fire on Sunday will soon be able to return home, after officials downgraded the evacuation order to an evacuation alert.

Firefighters confirmed the fire was under control and unlikely to flare up, even though it was still burning Monday morning.

The RCMP said the return of residents would be controlled and people would need identification to re-enter the evacuated areas.

The fire started in a large pile of wood chips outside the Tolko mill, located between Armstrong and Vernon, on Sunday afternoon, but no buildings were damaged by the flames.

High winds spread the blaze to the log yard, and heavy smoke and fumes from the fire forced the evacuation of several trailer parks across the highway and a nearby animal auction business.

The trailer parks evacuated included the Twin Furs, Belvas, Meadow Ridge and Pallisades parks, affecting residents of about 100 homes.

Firefighters from several departments were called in, along with air tankers from the B.C. Forest Service, to fight the fire.

An emergency centre for affected residents was set up at the Centennial Hall on Pleasant Valley Road on Sunday evening.

The smoke also closed Highway 97A and 97 in the area on Sunday night, but it was reopened by Monday morning.