Firefighters spent most of the day battling the Christie Mountain wildfire in strong winds gusting from the south, but the BC Wildfire Service said the unfavourable conditions have not significantly increased the fire.
However, the wind gusts caused anxiety for people at the 3,700 properties on an evacuation alert.
“Today’s the one that everybody has been dreading because the wind has obviously shifted,” said Deborah Akhurst, a local resident on evacuation alert.
“Now it’s coming from the south, which is pushing everything back towards town. We’re keeping an eye out, everybody. We’re on edge.”
Bylaw officers were going around the area on evacuation alert ensuring people are ready to leave if the order comes, Akhurst added.
Officials said crews setting up a wet line to protect homes in possible danger and triaging infrastructure because they were worried about the fire’s potential path.
“There’s still significant fuels up there. Our concern is the fuels then carrying through with the wind and then landing into our community, starting spot fires inside the community and then of course igniting structures,” Penticton Fire Chief Larry Watkinson said.
Watkinson said officials had chosen a trigger point in the upper bluffs area, noting that it could change based on fire behaviour.
“When that trigger point is passed by the fire, working with the incident management team, and incident commander, we will make the determination if we will activate the local state of emergency and then do the orders for evacuation at that time,” he said.
BC Wildfire Service said it closely monitored trigger points throughout the day and had personnel posted at lookouts to watch these areas.
“Crews worked to establish control lines at Skaha Bluff Provincial Park and looked for small burnout opportunities. They made great progress on the southwest flank of the fire building and strengthening control lines for values protection,” BC Wildfire Service said in its latest update.
In the late afternoon, the winds shifted the direction of the fire away from the city. Approximately one millimeter of rain fell on the blaze in the afternoon.
More than 130 firefighters, 15 helicopters and three water tenders worked on the site on Friday. Another 60 firefighters and one more helicopter are expected to join them on Saturday.
More than 300 properties remain evacuated.
The fire is currently estimated at 2,000 hectares in size.