British Columbia

Crews gain upper hand in West Kelowna fire, contain 60 per cent of blaze

Crews battling a large fire near Bear Creek Provincial Park campground in West Kelowna have contained 60 per cent of the blaze.

Officials say cooler temperatures have helped crews battling the wildfire

A wildfire near the Bear Creek Provincial Part campground in West Kelowna on August 21, 2016, forced the evacuation of approximately 156 properties. (Jaimie Kehler/CBC)

Crews battling a large fire near Bear Creek Provincial Park campground in West Kelowna have contained 60 per cent of the blaze.

Officials say cooler temperatures have helped crews fight the wildfire, which began Sunday night and forced the evacuation of dozens of properties above the northwestern shore of Okanagan Lake.

The blaze forced the Central Okanagan Regional District to order the evacuation of 156 properties. But on Monday afternoon, as crews gained an upper hand on the fire, evacuation orders were lifted on 51 of those properties.

By Monday evening, the fire was 52 hectares in size.

No homes were lost overnight but some sheds or outbuildings may have been damaged about 10 kilometres north of West Kelowna. 

The initial evacuation zone covered the provincial park campground, a subdivision and homes along Bear Creek Road.

"Last night was a perfect storm," said West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund. "We had an incredible amount of wind that came through. 

"Our priority was to evacuate the campground, and as you can imagine, that was a big task."

'The sky was orange'

One of the many people evacuated from the campground Sunday night was Ashley Lohse, who had to quickly leave late at night with her young daughter.

"Even in the completely pitch black, the sky was orange where we were," she said. 

"You try your best to be prepared for this kind of stuff. It is the Okanagan, we see this every year, so you just manage it as best you can."

On Monday, campers evacuated from Bear Creek Provincial Park were told they would be temporarily allowed into the campsite to remove their possessions, vehicles and trailers.

 Access will also be available for a limited time Tuesday morning beginning at 8 a.m. 

Another Okanagan fire, at the south end of Skaha Lake, about 80 kilometres south of Kelowna, also caused concern late Sunday.​

Residents of Okanagan Falls watched as flames edged toward homes in the community of about 2,500, but light winds and showers provided an edge for local firefighters and a wildfire service crew.

The wildfire service said 75 per cent of the the 16-hectare blaze had been contained by Monday afternoon.

Fire danger ratings across most of southern British Columbia climbed over the weekend to high, with many pockets in the Okanagan ranked as extreme.

Environment Canada forecast a return to hot, dry conditions by Tuesday.

With files from Canadian Press