Dozens of Okanagan families ordered out of their houses nearly a week ago due to an aggressive wildfire should be allowed back home in coming days, local officials said Monday.
The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) said crews have to finish assessing the Heritage Hills area, near Penticton, B.C., to be sure the neighbourhood is stable before families start coming back.
"I understand this is a very stressful and difficult time — please, be patient," said Karla Kozakevich, RDOS chair. "We must ensure the area is safe for homeowners to return."
Kozakevich could not provide an exact time when families will be allowed home, but did confirm it will not be Monday.
"We are hoping that, in the next couple days, we will be able to get people moving back into their homes. So, definitely this week."
Cooler weekend weather slowed the growth of the Christie Mountain fire. Nearly 320 properties were placed under an evacuation order on Aug. 18 because of the fire's threat. The order remains in effect.
One home in the Heritage Hills neighbourhood was destroyed by the flames.
Kozakevich said crews this week are looking for damaged utility lines, burned trees and destabilized retaining walls. Those checks, as well as geo-technical assessment reports, must be finished before residents will be allowed home.
Families will be allowed home in stages, with groups of addresses each getting a set time frame within which to return. The staged approach is meant to avoid hundreds of families flooding back to the area at once.
Kozakevich said families returning home could expect to see some lingering equipment, as well as charred trees and red fire retardant up in the forest.
An evacuation alert for another 3,700 properties in southeast Penticton was lifted on Monday.
The fire saw "minimal" growth over the weekend, according to the B.C. Wildfire Service, as cooling temperatures and strong winds pushed flames away from the city. As of Sunday, the fire was around 20 square kilometres in size.
Fire information officer Greg Jonuk said more than 200 firefighters and 16 helicopters have been fighting the fire, which has been difficult to tackle due to its location on a steep, rocky slope.
The region also remains under a special weather statement from Environment Canada over smoky skies.
Meanwhile, in B.C.'s Slocan Valley, 305 homes have been issued an evacuation alert over growing concerns about the spread of the nearby Talbot Creek wildfire.
The Doctor Creek fire, near Canal Flats, has also prompted an evacuation order for 10 properties.