Plane fighting wildfire crashes into Okanagan Lake

Plane fighting wildfire crashes into Okanagan Lake

25 July 2009

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Canada —

A waterbomber battling the Terrace Mountain fire north of Kelowna, B.C., has crashed into Okanagan Lake.

In a written release, the Kelowna RCMP said two boats in the area responded right away and rescued the pilot, who was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries.

The cause of the crash hasn’t been determined.

Bruce Freeborn, who lives along the lake in Fintry Delta, said he was working in his yard Saturday when he heard a loud bang and saw the plane in the water.

“Its nose was under [the water] and its tail section was still up and the tip of one wing was still up,” Freeborn said, adding it was upsetting to see the plane go down when fire crews are struggling to save his home from the blaze.

“It’s stressful for them,” he said. “I mean, they’re putting their life in their hands there.”

Some evacuees return home

Meanwhile, about 1,200 people in B.C.’s Okanagan region began returning to their homes after the threat from the Terrace Mountain fire was downgraded.

Those residents remain under an evacuation alert and officials say they must be ready to leave again at any time if fire conditions change in the area.

The evacuation order is still in place around Fintry and La Casa, affecting about 1,000 people who were forced from their homes on Thursday when the fire doubled in size.

The fire, which is estimated to cover about 45 square kilometres, is said to be 25 per cent contained.

Rain and cooler temperatures over the past few nights have helped fire crews.

People anxious to return to their homes lined up at a roadblock on Saturday morning. Among them was Tom Ginn, who said while it’s a dangerous fire, there’s no point in panicking.

“I think people stay calm just because there’s nothing you can do. It’s out of your control,” he said.

Ginn said it was the third time in the 15 years he has lived in the area that he was told to flee because of a forest fire. This time, he added, he actually packed up and left because the fire seemed so threatening.

There are 250 firefighters on site, supported on the fire lines by more than 30 aircraft and 48 pieces of heavy equipment.

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