RCMP officers from across British Columbia are being deployed to the North Okanagan to help with the rapidly evolving wildfire situation in the North Okanagan.
The White Rock Lake wildfire continues to burn more than an estimated 32,500 hectares between Vernon and Kamloops and has thousands on evacuation order from communities including Falkland, Westwold, Monte Lake, Pritchard and Okanagan Indian Band properties along Westside Road. Thousands more are on alert.
The fire jumped Highway 97 Thursday, Aug. 5, and moved north, damaging properties in the community of Monte Lake — the extend of those damages is still unknown at this time.
But BC Wildfire Services said people refusing to abide by the evacuation orders put first responders at “tremendous risk.”
“Efforts were taken away from actively suppressing the wildfire and protecting structures to be redirected towards tactically evacuating those who choose to remain in evacuation order area,” BC Wildfire said in a Thursday night update. “This continues to be an incredibly volatile situation displaying extremely vigorous surface and active crown fire.”
In light of the expanded orders handed down last night, the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP said they have a flexible plan in place to ensure personal safety and property protection in evacuation zones.
“We want to reassure you that your safety remains a priority for us,” media relations officer Const. Chris Terleski said.
“We understand that this is a very stressful time for everyone affected and those who have been evacuated are concerned for the security of their homes and properties.”
The RCMP Division Emergency Operations Centre, which provides resources and support to detachments affected by wildfires, has boosted the local team by deploying additional officers.
These officers will respond to all fire-related scenarios, including patrolling evacuation zones, assisting with safe evacuations and regular policing duties.
“We are asking people to be prepared to leave, to evacuate immediately if ordered to, to respect the road closures in place, adhere to instructions issued by emergency personnel and to stay away from evacuated areas until they are notified that it is safe to return,” Terleski said.
Evacuees can register online through the BC Provincial ESS website.