Loon Lake, B.C. property owners may return home Sunday, ending 5-week evacuation

On Sunday, property owners in the Loon Lake area of B.C. will be able to return to their community after an evacuation order went into effect on July 14.

'I am so glad the endless waiting ... is over,' writes resident on Facebook

Loon Lake resident Shawn Cahill took this photo of the wildfire before he fled the area July 14, 2017. (Shawn Cahill)

Property owners near Loon Lake, B.C., who were evacuated from their homes in mid-July due to a wildfire, will be permitted to return home Sunday.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District said the evacuation order will be lifted Sunday at 1 p.m. PT.

Residents were forced out of the community, which is nearly 400 kilometres northeast of Vancouver and off Highway 97, on July 14.

"It's been a long five weeks," wrote Carole Stocker-Hall on Facebook. "Thank you to all the wonderful fire-fighting people, and all those who supported them in fighting the beast!"

Officials have yet to determine how many homes were destroyed. 0:50

The residents were driven from their homes by the Elephant Hill wildfire, which is still 168,000 hectares in size. The fire caused significant damage after it burned through the community.

Loon Lake is home to about 330 structures, including a number of fishing resorts and about 170 year-round residents.

The area's volunteer fire hall along with dozens of other properties were destroyed by fire.

Some of the devastation caused by the Elephant Hill fire in Loon Lake B.C. (Submitted)

"The imminent threat posed by the fire has currently diminished to the point that property owners in the Loon Lake area can return to their properties," wrote the Thompson-Nicola Regional District in a release on Saturday.

Officials spent the day securing the area for the residents' return by moving dangerous trees along roadways, and ensuring that water, hydro and telephone service were available.

Sunday return

Officials will hold a meeting at 11:00 a.m. PT at the Cache Creek Community Hall to discuss re-entry issues.

"Residents are reminded that the Loon Lake area remains on evacuation alert," said the district. "While the Elephant Hill Wildfire remains active, residents need to stay vigilant and must be prepared to leave at any time."

Areas surrounding Loon Lake remain on evacuation order, including Hihium Lake.

A map showing the areas of Loon Lake B.C. under evacuation order and alert due to wildfire threat. (Thompson-Nicola Regional District)

On Saturday, fire officials said the fire is 25 per cent contained.

Many members of the community have waited anxiously to return home, sharing photos, information and support on a Loon Lake B.C. Facebook group.

"This is just the beginning," wrote Cheryl Kuban about the news of the order being lifted. "But I am so glad the endless waiting … is over."