British Columbia

Penticton fire evacuees allowed to return home — but some will have to walk there

Crews still working to contain wildfire in Sage Mesa area northwest of city.

Crews still working to contain wildfire in Sage Mesa area northwest of city

Crews with the Penticton Fire Department and B.C. Wildfire Service are battling what started as a brush fire along Highway 97 near Sage Mesa Drive in the West Bench area of Penticton, B.C. (@0684Blade/Twitter)

Residents of a Penticton neighbourhood evacuated Thursday morning due to the threat of wildfire are being allowed to return home — but some will have to walk there.

Seventy-four properties in the Sage Mesa neighbourhood northwest of the city were evacuated this morning due to "immediate danger" from a wildfire burning in the area.

"This tactical evacuation is in support of first responders who have already been evacuating homes in this area," said the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen in a release issued at 9 a.m. PT.

Now, homeowners are being allowed to return, but several people who live on Sage Mesa Drive are being told they will have to walk, as road restrictions remain in place.

'Brush and grass fire'

Regional district information officer Erick Thompson said the Penticton Fire Department was called to the area at approximately 8 a.m. PT to deal with a "grass and brush fire" at the north end of Sage Mesa Drive near Highway 97, in the West Bench area of Penticton.

Thompson said dozens of homes, as well as the Pine Hills Golf Course, were affected by the evacuation order.

"We understand the fire is being held," Thompson said in a morning interview. "We have some wind in the area right now, and that's already a concern but because the fire's being held, that's certainly a good sign."

Police said they secured the area to allow crews with the Penticton Fire Department and B.C. Wildfire Service to fight the flames.

RCMP also warned boaters on Okanagan Lake to stay out of the area as air crews carry out suppression measures.

"Interfering with fire crews can have an impact on everyone's safety and could impede their efforts," the police said in a release.

As of 12:50 p.m. PT, DriveBC had Highway 97 southbound listed as closed, while two northbound lanes are open to allow vehicles through in both directions.

All evacuees were asked to register with Emergency Support Services, whether they required help or not.

With files from Tom Popyk

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