Phil McLachlan, Penticton Western News

Penticton man wakes to wildfire, forced to evacuate

A wildfire sparked off the side of Highway 97 near Penticton on Thursday

After getting up at 7:00 a.m. and reading the paper, Jim Kelly decided to go back asleep this morning.

He was soon awoken by a knocking at his door. It was the police, evacuating the area because of a wildfire.

“I looked outside and saw fire shooting up 20 feet,” he said, describing the blaze that was across from his backyard. “I’m fortunate not to get a fire on my side of the gully.”

The fire forced 74 people to evacuate from their homes just north of Penticton, and temporarily shut down Highway 97.

Helicopters worked to cut down the blaze, and eventually the highway was partially reopened.

By noon, on Thursday (Aug. 6), the blaze was under control and people began returning to their homes.

Erick Thompson is the information officer for the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen. He said crews were first alerted to a grass and brush fire about 8 a.m.

“We’re hoping road restrictions will drop by the end of the day,” he said.

Thompson added residents worried about future evacuation orders can pre-register with the district, and potential evacuees should follow all COVID-19 recommendations, especially if they have symptoms.

The cause of the fire is unknown.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Wildfire between Summerland and Penticton now ‘under control’

READ MORE: University of B.C. study warns wildfire smoke could make COVID-19 symptoms worse

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