Wildfires in Okanagan Valley lead to evacuations, highway delays

Wildfires in Okanagan Valley lead to evacuations, highway delays

WATCH: A wildfire burning near Peachland has forced the evacuation of more than 80 homes as well as a popular campground. April Lawrence reports.

Helicopters were bucketing a hillside near Peachland, one of several wildfires burning in the region after a lightning storm rolled through Tuesday. The other two largest are burning near Summerland and in Okanagan Mountain Park near Kelowna.

The Mount Eneas fire near Peachland nearly doubled in size by Thursday to 500 hectares. It has forced the evacuation of more than 120 homes as well as the popular Okanagan Lake Provincial Park campground.

“Some people from the campground got out with nothing, their tents and trailers are still there,” said Catherine Williams, emergency support director for the Central Okanagan Regional District.

Grant Endres was ordered to leave his home in the middle of the night.

“Anxiety I guess would be the most thing, grab the dog, grab whatever you can and head out when they’re at your door you don’t really have time to do much so I’m still in pyjamas,” he said.

The aggressive fire also caused the temporary closure of Highway 97 Wednesday night leaving some motorists stranded for hours.

On Thursday, the highway, the main link through the Okanagan reopened to single lane traffic but the trip between Summerland and Peachland, which should take 15 minutes, is taking two hours. The only detour is about a three-hour drive.

The Good Creek fire across the lake in Okanagan Mountain Park near Kelowna has grown to 340 hectares — there are evacuation alerts in place.

And the third major fire is Mount Conkle near Summerland. While highly visible it isn’t currently threatening any structures.

While firefighters ramp up their efforts, tourists in evacuation areas are being asked to head home. It’s something Grant Endres is hoping he’ll be able to do.

“Just waiting and watching and hoping things turn around and they get it beat,” he said.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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