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UPDATED: Christie Mountain wildfire: Evacuation order for 319 homes lifted

A helicopter landing beside some water bladders at the Christie Mountain wildfire near Penticton. BC Wildfire Service

Residents evacuated because of the Christie Mountain wildfire will now be able to return home, the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen announced on Tuesday.

In the afternoon, regional district officials said the order affecting 319 homes was mostly rescinded — mostly, because approximately 75 homes still had geo-technical concerns.

However, at 6 p.m. the regional district announced it was rescinding the evacuation order for the remaining 75 properties. They are now under an evacuation alert instead.

“Every time there’s an emergency, we learn how to do things better for next time,” said RDOS chair Karla Kozakevich, as officials thanked Heritage Hills residents for their patience during the evacuation order.

Read more: B.C.’s Christie Mountain wildfire: Re-entry plans in the works for Heritage Hills evacuees

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On Monday, the regional district announced that re-entry plans into Heritage Hills were being finalized, leading to speculation that the evacuation order would be rescinded.

“Geotechnical work is underway and crews are working to ensure the safety of homes, driveways and retaining walls as well as critical infrastructure including gas, power and water lines,” the RDOS said on Monday.

“Danger trees and other potential hazards must also be assessed. The objective is to return people as soon as possible.”

An evacuation alert previously in effect for 116 homes in the Upper Carmi Area and Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park has also been lifted.

Click to play video: 'Evacuation order mostly lifted for Christie Mountain wildfire' Evacuation order mostly lifted for Christie Mountain wildfire
Evacuation order mostly lifted for Christie Mountain wildfire – Aug 25, 2020

The regional district said residents and small business owners will receive an information kit.

The RDOS also said its website has an interactive map that allows residents to type in their address to see if they’re allowed back home or not.

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The fire was listed at 2,035 hectares, the same size it was on Saturday afternoon.

Click to play video: 'Regional district outlines re-entry plans' Regional district outlines re-entry plans
Regional district outlines re-entry plans – Aug 24, 2020

“The fire remains at a Rank 1 (status) with minimal growth, allowing crews to continue moving around the flanks,” BC Wildfire said on Tuesday morning.

The fire’s cause is still under investigation.

Click to play video: 'Government officials announce re-entry plans for Christie Mountain wildfire evacuees, evacuation alert rescinded' Government officials announce re-entry plans for Christie Mountain wildfire evacuees, evacuation alert rescinded
Government officials announce re-entry plans for Christie Mountain wildfire evacuees, evacuation alert rescinded – Aug 24, 2020

For Tuesday, BC Wildfire said 217 firefighters will be on scene, tackling the southwest flank, along with 12 helicopters and four water tenders.

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It also said crews will be working on access points along the north and east flanks, and that control lines will be reinforced at Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park.

The deputy incident commander for the Christie Mountain wildfire, Dennis Rexin, said great effort has led to great progress, and that the weather has helped.

Asked when containment is expected, Rexin didn’t give a date, but said “the way progress is going, I expect there’s still going to be areas of the fire smouldering for quite some time. I expect containment to be accomplished in the very near future.”

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