Wildfire near Kelowna only 1 km from homes, but cool weather holds back flames
Flames forced more than 1,100 people to flee on Thursday
A wildfire in B.C.'s Okanagan region inched closer to homes overnight after forcing more than 1,000 people to flee on Thursday, but officials say cooler weather made a difference in the firefight.
Flames were first reported along Highway 33, about 25 kilometres east of Kelowna, around 1:30 p.m. PT.
Central Okanagan Emergency Operations (COEP) issued an evacuation order for 474 properties, affecting around 1,100 people, just over an hour later.
As of Friday afternoon, the B.C. Wildfire Service said the 400-hectare fire was within a kilometre of homes. No structures were damaged and the fire hadn't grown significantly.
View of out of control wildfire 20km east of Kelowna from the city's downtown. Already 40ha. <a href="https://t.co/ll46TI0px4">pic.twitter.com/ll46TI0px4</a>—@BradyStrachan
COEP said cool weather and minimal wind overnight kept the fire from growing, adding that thick smoke visible in the area was due to the lack of a breeze.
Environment Canada said the low in Kelowna was 5.3 C — the coldest night since April.
Provincial fire information officer Justine Hunse said more resources were brought in Friday morning as backup.
The wildfire service said the cause of the fire is under investigation. So far, about four square kilometres north of the community of Joe Rich have been scorched.
Jogger outruns flames
Cynthia Row was on a trail run in the hills above Highway 33 when flames shot up trees around her.
"I noticed a helicopter overhead, not far away ... I thought, 'OK, they're just checking for fires — but I had a feeling in my gut," Row continued. "I looked back and I could see this plume of smoke."
She phoned 911 and she and the dispatcher agreed that Row should try and go down the hill, given her knowledge of the area.
"I just started running down as fast as I could ... within a few hundred feet, I ran into a wall of fire coming up the trail right at me," Row said. "I ended up having to just bushwhack off the trail."
The Calgary woman, who came to Kelowna in June, eventually reached the safety of the highway. Row said she was in shock but otherwise unharmed.
"I've never been so scared in my life," she said.
Highway 33 remains closed through the area. An emergency support services reception centre has been established at Willow Park church in Kelowna.
With files from Farrah Merali