‘We were really worried’: Penticton-area wildfires force evacuations

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Watch: 'We were really worried": fire evacuee Mary Byrne describes her experience – Jun 19, 2019

There were scary moments for some residents in the Penticton area overnight after wildfires forced them to evacuate.

The Penticton Indian Band said on social media that six homes had to be evacuated early Wednesday morning after two wildfires broke out in the area.

The Penticton Indian Band said wildfires forced evacuations early Wednesday morning. Contributed
Several people took to social media to share photos of the early morning fire. Jennifer Adam / Facebook

The band said residents have since been allowed to return to their homes.

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Lena Gabriel said that around 2:30 a.m., a family member came to her door to alert the family that a fire was burning on the hill above their home.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Emergency crews knock down grass fire in West Kelowna

With help from her family, she packed up some clothes and pictures of her kids and pets before fleeing with four of her children to an aunt’s home.

“It was scary because where we live it is very dry,” she said.

Firefighters battle a blaze that broke out early Wednesday morning. Mike Biden

From her aunt’s house, Gabriel stayed up and watched the flames.

“I could see it was going down the hill towards my home,” she said.

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READ MORE: Air tankers drop retardant on West Kelowna wildfire, third of the day

Hours later, she was told the fire was contained and the family could return home.

Gabriel and her children were happy to hear their home of eight years had survived, although she was informed the blaze had made its way into her backyard.

Gabriel expressed thanks to the Penticton Indian Band Fire Department and the other fire crews who worked to keep homes safe.

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Mary Byrne, who is visiting the Penticton area from Portland, Ore., said a police officer knocked on her uncle’s door and told them they had to evacuate.

“Right at the top of the hillside was a line of fire, and we were really worried it was going to start coming down towards our house,” she said.

Byrne said she grabbed her computer, memorabilia and clothing before she and her family drove to the community centre.

Crews mop up after a fire on Penticton Indian Band land Wednesday morning. Shelby Thom / Global News

The band said early Wednesday morning that residents remain on alert, meaning they need to be prepared for the possibility they may have to evacuate again.

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It has yet to respond to questions about whether that state of alert remains in place.

The B.C. Wildfire Service said one blaze, discovered on Tuesday, is near West Hills Road and is just 0.01 hectares in size, while the other, near Green Mountain Road, is nine hectares.

READ MORE: West Kelowna fire crews douse second brush blaze of day

By 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, crews could be seen dousing hotspots on a charred hillside near Creek Lane with no significant flame or smoke visible.

On Wednesday morning, the Penticton Indian Band and Penticton Fire Department were referring media questions about the incident to each other.

In response to media questions, the band then released a brief statement.

“We are thankful for the combined efforts of the Penticton Indian Band Fire Department, City of Penticton Fire Department, RCMP and BC Wildfire crews in successfully actioning this fire, which required the tactical evacuation of six residences,” the statement said.