by Dave Preston
Thrill seekers at Peachland’s ZipZone Adventure Park were evacuated Tuesday afternoon after a tree burst into flames from a lightning strike.
A thunderstorm moved into the Peachland area late Tuesday. Josh Sears, ZipZone’s operations manager, said he was looking across the Deep Creek Gorge when a bolt of lightning struck.
A very tall, dead tree on the south side of the gorge, just outside ZipZone’s boundaries, burst into flame, according to Sears.
ZipZone’s evacuation plan was immediately put into action. Sears said there were about 16 guests on the course at the time the fire started and it took about 10 minutes to get everyone safely to the main staging area on the north side of the gorge.
Sears said, although the fire was limited to a single tree, his concern was that the burnt section on the top of the tree could fall off and start a ground fire. Sears also called in the fire to the BC Forest Service.
The top 20 to 30 feet of the tree was blackened and smouldering when a helicopter flew overhead at about 5 p.m. The chopper crew was sent in to assess the situation and figure out how to get a forestry crew in to deal with the burning tree.
An initial attack crew staged near Okanagan ATV Tours on MacDougald Road. A forestry firefighter there said the crew would drive in on the Munro Forest Road and then hike in the rest of the way to the fire.
The plan was to cut the tree down while avoiding the nearby ziplines.