The strong winds that sent a fire barrelling towards the community of Peachland in B.C.'s Okanagan proved too much for firefighters attempting to keep the blaze away from homes, with gusts of wind acting like flame throwers and destroying four houses.
The fire, which started Sunday and moved three kilometres in a little more than an hour, continued to send thick clouds of white smoke over the community Monday, with more than 1,500 residents facing an evacuation order.
Three homes and an abandoned house were destroyed, fire officials said, along with several out buildings in the northern and western edges of town. No one was injured.
"The wind was blowing very hard in that area," Peachland fire Chief Grant Topham told a news conference Monday.
Heavy rain and cooler temperatures on Monday morning helped firefighters get the fire 50 per cent contained.
"Numerous outbuildings have also been impacted. Emergency personnel are continuing to formulate a detailed damage assessment and are in the process of notifying affected property owners. Victim Witness Services are working with Emergency Support Services to offer assistance to the families affected," said a statement issued by the Central Okanagan Regional District at noon.
The 200-hectare wildfire is now mostly just smouldering with few visible flames following a rapid attack on the fire on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning.
Six helicopters and more than 150 firefighters were working to establish a fire guard about one-kilometre long to protect nearby houses on Monday, said officials.
The fire started Sunday afternoon and quickly grew in strong winds to nearly 175 hectares, triggering the evacuation alert.
Evacuee Katie Craig spent the night with her family's horses in a horse trailer at a ranch in nearby West Kelowna. She says people rallied together yesterday to take dozens of animals from the evacuation zone.
"We knew the fire was there so we had them loaded and truck and trailer hooked up and waited for the 'Get out of here' kind of thing," she said.
"It wasn't too bad. The community came together as soon as they heard there was a fire in an area with horses. They all got out safely, about 60 of them."
Craig says her brother and father stayed in the evacuation zone to protect their home overnight and watched as a neighbour's barn burned to the ground.