by Dave Preston
Fire Chief Grant Topham was spending his Sunday afternoon at home. And then hell came to Peachland.
A few minutes after 3 p.m., Peachland Fire and Rescue Service received a call from fire dispatch that there was a fire on the Trepanier Bench, according to Topham.
“We were requested by forestry to attend,” said Topham.
Several fire trucks were dispatched up Trepanier Road to an area outside of Peachland’s fire boundary and several others were kept inside the town’s boundaries.
“It didn’t take very long until the wind blew the fire down into our area,” said Topham.
At the same time, the regional district’s Emergency Operations Centre was activated and equipment began arriving from neighboring communities.
“The fire was raging quite fast,” said Topham. “The wind was blowing that fire so fast down that valley.”
“We did lose some structures,” said Topham.
The fire chief, was interviewed shortly after 11 p.m., said he is concerned about all of Peachland.
“All it will take is for the wind to flare up or the wind to change and blow the fire into an unburned area,” said Topham.
“The whole Trepanier area is under threat even though we have the fire knocked back a bit,” Topham said.
A structure sprinkler system was deployed Sunday night in the upper Ponderosa area to try and protect homes and Topham said a second unit was due to arrive over night to further help protect homes.
Topham said he believed there were 60 to 80 firefighters working on the fire Sunday evening and they came from all over the Okanagan Valley.
Some firefighters were to remain on the front line of the fire to deal with hotspots as they arose. Some firefighters, who had been battling the blaze since shortly after 3 p.m., were given the night off, while other firefighters brought in from neighboring communities took over.
Firefighters coming off the line were sent to the Peachland Fire Hall to be checked out by paramedics. They could also get something to eat at the hall.
Another shift change is due to take place sometime Monday morning and bucketing helicopters, which had to stop operations at dusk, are expected back on scene at first light.
The fire forced the evacuation of more than 1,500 people from the Trepanier and Ponderosa areas of Peachland.
Clements Crescent is also under an evacuation order. Peachland Elementary School is closed Monday, as will all businesses in Peachland Centre Mall.
Late Sunday night the violent winds that had whipped up the fire died down.
The Peachland Community Centre has cancelled all classes and activities for Monday as that facility is under evacuation alert.