Princeton knew it had a problem about 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.
The air was suddenly heavy with smoke, large aircraft, and of course, sirens.
The Kamloops Fire Centre, supported by local volunteer firefighters, was responding to a 182-hectare fire six kilometres north of town.
According to the province’s Wildfire Management Branch dry grass, steep terrain and winds challenged efforts to fight the blaze. Five air tankers were employed in the suppression efforts and RCMP barricaded Princeton-Summerland Road near the fairgrounds.
The Spotlight attempted to access the scene by ATV on the Kettle Valley Rail trail, but was forced away by a thick wall of smoke that teared the eyes and choked the breath.
The fire was considered under control at about 2 a.m. Monday. According to the Wildfire Management Branch, later that day more than 30 firefighters remained on scene, creating a guard around the scene to establish containment, using heavy equipment, a helicopter, and airtankers.
No evacuation orders or alerts were issued, but along Princeton’s main street Sunday night there was much concerned speculation about what might happen. People admitted they had packed bags and were ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
An RCMP officer, turning away traffic just north of town, said in the event of an evacuation first responders would knock on every door, and check every bed.
Princeton CAO Rick Zerr, who was officially notified about the fire at approximately 8 p.m. Sunday night, said firefighters, police and highway rescue personnel would lead any evacuation.
“We really are prepared for it,” said Zerr. “The fire department has a protocol to follow. If it gets to the point where we have to activate our emergency operations centre I would call the mayor and we would activate it.”
A Kamloops Fire Centre press release indicated the fire was not caused by lightening.
“The fire is suspected to be human caused but the specific cause is under investigation. Despite the temporary respite in weather conditions the fire danger rating in many areas of the Kamloops Fire Centre remains ‘high.’ Warm dry conditions are expected to continue over the next few days, which will further increase the wildfire risk.”