Wildfire destroys homes as it grows to 2,500 hectares in Rock Creek, Canada
The 2,500-hectare fire blazing near the small southern Interior town of Rock Creek has claimed some buildings, including houses, B.C.’s wildfire information centre said Friday afternoon.
But it is too early to say how many houses have been lost, said fire information officer Jordan Turner, adding that he was unable to give an exact location of the buildings that had burned down.
Hundreds of evacuees from Rock Creek are scrambling to find accommodation, after escaping the aggressive wildfire that swept through the area Thursday.
By Friday, the blaze had more than doubled in size to 2,500 hectares, and was moving uphill on either side of the valley. As of Friday afternoon, there were 76 firefighters, four helicopters and two airtankers fighting the blaze, with more personnel en route, according to the BC Wildfire service.
Alan Stanley, an official with the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, said Friday afternoon that they still do not know how many structures were lost and that regional and provincial staff were still surveying the area.
Scores of residents from 270 homes and campers, many of whom had to ditch their gear and run from the rapidly moving flames, were staying in reception centres in multiple locations.
“The air is thick with smoke, and everything is closed because no one has any power,” said Scott Petrie, owner of the Rock Creek Trading Post. He said he witnessed some structures on the hill on fire at around 7 p.m., and said police had blocked off all the surrounding roads.
Stanley said early Friday that nearly 300 non residents, mostly campers, checked in at the Midway Community Centre where an emergency shelter has been set up. Midway is a village located n the West Kootenay region, about 50 kilometres east of Osoyoos.
Officials are trying to find out how many people have checked in at the different centres, said Stanley, and at this point cannot say for sure whether any life was lost.
“This is our big issue right now. It was really challenging last night … We don’t have a count yet of how many structures and homes were lost, and we’re scrambling to count people,” he said.
“The fire came down really fast through the campsite.”
Most of the residents had left to stay in reception centres in Kelowna or Lumby, said Stanley.
Evacuees Anita and Orville Unrau, who live north of Rock Creek on the east side of the river, are staying with a family in Midway, after a gruelling afternoon Thursday spent trying to save their 12 horses.
Anita said with the help of kind neighbours all the animals were loaded onto trailers and are temporarily staying with other horse owners in the Kettle Valley and Midway.
“The fire jumped the river, and we were out there with water and mats from our truck, trying to put out the fire,” she said, adding that she witnessed at least one structure go up in flames.
Yet amid the struggle to save homes and lives, she said there was incredible community spirit, as neighbours helped each other to safety and residents of Midway opened up their homes and cafes to feed the displaced residents and campers.
Courtesy of vancouversun.com