Officials say it is too soon to talk about compensation for owners of 30 homes destroyed in the Rock Creek Fire.
Chris Duffy speaks for Emergency Management BC.
“It’s a little early to commit to that right now. And again, you know, our focus is on response and public safety. We’ll work with those individuals in the days ahead to identify the supports that we can.”
Duffy says the first step is to look at the insurance situation for the owners of the lost homes.
He says that’s the key difference between this disaster — and the one that wiped out part of Cache Creek earlier this year.
“Insurance isn’t available for overland flooding — but insurance is available for fires. And so we look at that and then from there we’ll look to see which way we can support folks with whatever mechanisms we can.”
Duffy says as of early Sunday, about a third of the 29 homeowners have been informed of their losses, and a meeting is planned for this afternoon.
Worst possible news for home owners
News of the destruction was not what home owners forced to flee from the wildfire wanted to hear.
Thirty homes and an additional 10 structures were damaged or destroyed.
Emergency information officer with the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, Allen Stanley says while they don’t believe the fire will destroy any more homes, things can change quickly.
“What the wildfire people tell me is that, you can never guarantee anything with a wildfire. The conditions right now suggest that all the homes that are left within the evacuation areas are not in danger, but there are no guarantees with these fires.”
Hundreds of people are still under an evacuation order.
“We’ve contacted most of the home owners and we’re working really hard to get a hold of the rest of them. We’re having a couple of meetings with property owners in Midway and Kelowna.”
Campers evacuated from the Kettle River Provincial Park received a chance to check on their belongings on Sunday, which were left behind when they were forced to flee Thursday.
The Rock Creek fire is now nearly 4,000 hectares and is believed to have been human caused.
Wildfire officer Mike McCulley says “it’s fairly early on in this fire, and getting a handle on the boundary is difficult.”
“Well, it is a fairly large active wildfire and our crews are always on high alert in these situations. We are watching the weather and we’re going to be paying very close attention to that over the next few days.”
“We know today the weather is hot and dry and we will see a continued trend that direction, so, this is still a very large, active and dangerous wildfire.”
About 330 homes remain under an evacuation order. McCulley says crews have been working to protect some of those structures
“We do have structure protection units in place on some structures within the fire perimeter area.”
The human-caused fire broke out Thursday, and had sections of highway 3 and 33 closed. But highway 3, fourteen kilometres east of Osoyoos to Midway, has reopened.
Something, fire information officer Mike McCulley says was a priority.
“Our crews worked very hard over the past few days to ensure that the corridor was safe so we could get people moving through the area and get the highway reopened.”
When the fire first broke out, some people reported seeing the flames jump the highway as it quickly spread out of control.
The Rock Creek wildfire is not the only fire threatening homes, 40km to the west, hundreds still on edge in Oliver. Despite residents to the north being allowed back home, 100 to the south of the Okanagan town still being told it’s not safe to return.
Saturday people affected by the 300-hectare Wilsons Mountain fire went home, but were told they must be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
Meanwhile, the Testalinden Creek fire is more than 15-square kilometre; the evacuation order remains in place.
Fire information officer Noelle Kekula says Sunday the focus will be on containment.
“We need to tighten up out containment lines, and that is through various methods. We could do it through machines, hand guards or air support.”
The Testalinden Creek fire is now more than 1,560 hectares, while the Wilsons Mountain fire is more than 315 hectares.
“Still zero percent contained and our goal for today is to limit the fire spread to the identified values.”
29 firefighters, four helicopters plus heavy equipment is working to contain the Wilsons Mountain fire. While 96 firefighters, six helicopters, and four air tankers are battling the Testalinden Creek fire.
Evacuation orders are still in place for homes around the Testalinden Creek fire.