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'It was Just a Wall of Fire': Neighbours Fight off Cawston area Blaze Just North of Oroville WA



A group of about 15 people living south of Cawston, B.C., banded together to fight off the Richter Mountain fire Thursday night and early Friday morning, as gusting winds fanned flames down the mountainside toward their properties.


The wildfire, burning approximately 15 kilometres south of Cawston along Highway 3, has grown to 150 hectares, up from 80 hectares earlier in the day, according to the B.C. Wildfire Service.


On Friday, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen issued an evacuation alert for 10 properties adjacent to the highway and on Chopaka Road.


"The fire was so strong and it was so windy," said Melissa Genberg, who fought the blaze into the early morning hours of Friday along with her neighbours. ”It was just a wall of fire." A group of about 15 people used water trucks and fire hoses to wet down vegetation, Genberg said.

"We were trying to keep it from jumping the highway because once it jumps the highway then we are in big trouble because that's where the business is."

Genberg and her family members banded together with her ranching and winery-owning neighbours until about 4:30 a.m. when provincial firefighters arrived to take over, she said.


"In this little town, it's one good thing that everybody pulls together when you need to and that's what we did," Genberg said.


The Richter Mountain wildfire started on Tuesday after a lightning strike. This is the second year in a row Genberg and her neighbours have fought off a wildfire from encroaching on their Similkameen properties. The Snowy Mountain fire] burned on the other side of the Smilkameen River in early August 2018.


"This isn't our first rodeo," she said. "We are getting good at it, unfortunately."


The B.C. Wildfire Service had 66 firefighters in the area assisted by three helicopters and air tankers battling the fire on Friday. However, the agency warned warmer and drier conditions in the region will likely increase fire activity.


- Brady Strachan CBC Kelowna British Columbia

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