The Kaleden wildfire south of Penticton is holding at 6.5 hectares and officials do not expect it to spread.
Kaleden resident Mike Webb was out on Skaha Lake with his family when he saw the smoke and flames.
“It looked like at first that top ridge was on fire, sort of where that tall pine tree is, I’d be suspicious if that was the area it started,” he said while showing Global News the fire zone from his boat.
The hillside is scorched and a blanket of red fire retardant is visible from Skaha Lake.
The wildfire candled several trees and destroyed one home and several outbuildings, prompting mass evacuations.
“It just kept spreading and the retardant they first seemed to just be protecting houses, they weren’t too worried about this side and then we watched that fire come all the way down this ridge,” Webb said.
Firefighters quickly got the upper hand by boxing in the blaze with fire guards, utilizing air tankers and helicopters from the BC Wildfire Service.
Ground crews remained on scene Wednesday without air support, tackling the hot spots in the burn zone.
“We’ve got a technique called hydraulicing where they spread the soil and circle with the hose and get deep into the duff layer to make sure they get all of the hot spots out,” said Nick Rothenburger, Initial Attack Crew Leader.
The fire spread quickly due to scorching hot temperatures and dry brush combined with wind.
“Wind is a huge factor in fire behaviour, 13 kilometers of wind speed can actually double the rate of a wildfire,” said Dale Bojahra with the BC Wildfire Service. “So wind is the number one factor in spread rates so we are always watching that, certainly it was a factor yesterday.”
Webb witnessed the fire explode in a matter of minutes.
“It went very quickly…in 15 minutes it went from the one area to the entire length of the ridge and threatening the home at the other end,” he said.
Given the absence of lightning in the area, officials suspect the fire was human-caused but are not saying how it started.