Sharon Ertl looks over the charred hillside next to her home at The Rise. The 36.3-hectare grass fire forced her to evacuate Tuesday.

Sharon Ertl looks over the charred hillside next to her home at The Rise. The 36.3-hectare grass fire forced her to evacuate Tuesday.

Tense times for Rise resident

Sharon Ertl jokes that she’s gone from tornado alley to the hot seat.

Sharon Ertl jokes that she’s gone from tornado alley to the hot seat.

Still unpacking from a recent move from Red Deer, Alta., Ertl was faced with a dangerous situation as a rapidly moving grass fire neared her home in The Rise neighbourhood Tuesday afternoon.

“We were hosing down everything we could,” she said.

The flames, fuelled by winds off Okanagan Lake, became so unpredictable that Ertl and one other residence were evacuated.

“The neighbours were here and they grabbed everything important — pictures, passports,” said Ertl.

They were allowed to return home by 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“I kept waking up to see hot spots. But the guys were all out there so I knew we were safe,” said Ertl.

Vernon, Okanagan Landing and B.C. Forest Service crews had the 36.3-hectare blaze fully contained by late Wednesday.

However, 100 per cent containment doesn’t mean all of the challenges are extinguished. There are still the possibilities of hot spots flaring up.

“It could be as late as a week before it pops up,” said Jack Blair, Vernon deputy chief.

“We will be monitoring this for the next week or two weeks.”

An infrared scan Thursday identified seven hot spots and they were tackled.

“With one spot, they had to dig down a foot to get to it,” said Blair.

He admits there was a possibility of losing structures Tuesday because of the changing wind directions.

“It actually jumped the fire guard and it was, ‘Oh my goodness, we better get some more resources to this location,’” he said of the area near Ertl’s home.

Ertl has nothing but praise for the firefighters and the extreme conditions they experienced.

“Just to see them walking up the hill carrying hoses is amazing. We’ve walked up the hill and it’s barely doable,” she said.

“It was so smoky and with the spotters (planes) flying through, you barely could see them.”

A cause for the fire has still not been determined, and Blair would not speculate on whether an abandoned cigarette may be responsible.

Mayor Rob Sawatzky has praise for everyone involved in extinguishing the blaze.

“I have been very impressed with their dedication,” he said.

“It was nice to see the co-operation among the agencies. As a community, we are very lucky.”