Nine houses claimed in 300-hectare forest fire in District of West Kelowna

Nine houses claimed in 300-hectare forest fire in District of West Kelowna

19 July 2009

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B.C., Canada — The forest fire burning up the Glenrosa area of West Kelowna has claimed nine houses, forced the evacuation of 4,500 more — and continues to spread.

Dry conditions, strong wind and hot weather have spurred on the fire, which increased in a matter of hours to 300 hectares from 15 hectares Saturday evening.

So far, at least nine homes have been destroyed, Forests Minister Pat Bell told Global TV. He said the fire has the potential to be worse than a 2003 fire that destroyed more than 200 homes.

He said residents should be “prepared to move if they have to.”

Airplanes combatting the flames have been grounded for the night, but are scheduled to be back in the air by 5 a.m., Bell added.

Earlier, the fire jumped Highway 97 — closed in both directions from Peachland to the junction with Westside Road — and began moving east towards Okanagan Lake, the ministry’s website said.

About 10,000 residents have fled 4,500 homes, according to a news release from the Kelowna emergency operations centre.

Another 20 hectare fire is burning near the Rose Valley Reservoir, the release added.

Evacuees were being sent to Mount Boucherie secondary school, Turpin said, as well as Royal LePage Place, a 1,500-seat arena.

The West Kelowna Fire Department is fighting the fire with B.C. Forest Services with assistance from the Peachland and Kelowna fire departments.

Forty-five firefighters from the B.C. Forest Service, along with three groups of air tankers and five helicopters are battling the blaze, according to a news release from the Ministry of Forests.

At the request of the fire department, BC Hydro cut the power to nearly 4,000 area residents.

Residents affected by the fire were asked to call 250-469-8490 .

West Kelowna has a population of 29,000 and is in the midst of a heat wave with no relief in sight as temperatures are expected to reach the mid-30s Celsius for the next seven days.

In 2003, a 250 square-kilometre fire ravaged Okanagan Mountain Park and led to the evacuation of about 27,000 people and destruction of over 200 homes.

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