(Thompson-Nicola Regional District)

(Thompson-Nicola Regional District)

Not safe for many White Rock Lake wildfire evacuees to come home yet: North Westside Fire Chief

Cooler temperatures slow activity as fire burns more than 80,000 hectares

Cooler temperatures and some rain have slowed the White Rock Lake wildfire’s activity, but as of Wednesday, Aug. 18, it’s estimated at 81,139 hectares — 3,000 hectares more than reported the day previous.

Several communities, including Fintry, La Casa, Spallumcheen, some around Monte Lake and portions of Okanagan Indian Band, were allowed to return home as local municipalities downgraded evacuation orders Tuesday night.

North Westside Fire Rescue Chief Alex Van Bruksvoort said this week was a challenging one for the community.

“While it is a relief to welcome residents of La Casa and Fintry back home, this event is far from over and we all need to continue to be prepared,” he said. “I know many people in the evacuation areas are anxious to get in and see their properties but it is not safe to do so at this time as the fire remains active and out of control.”

The fire was fuelled by winds Sunday, Aug. 15, triggering aggressive fire behaviour in the south, east and northern flanks. The most significant growth, the BC Wildfire Services said, was down into OKIB IR#1 and across Westside Road in the Fintry Park and Ewing areas.

An estimated 70 Westside Road properties in Ewings Landing and Killiney areas were significantly damaged and the OKIB reported at least 10 homes and one business were destroyed. Another four homes were significantly damaged.

Property owners have been or will soon be contacted by local authorities.

BC Wildfire Services incident commander Mark Healey said last week fire behaviour witnessed on the frontlines of the out-of-control White Rock Lake wildfire are “beyond extreme.”

“This is a catastrophic event. This isn’t just a wildfire,” Healey said Thursday, Aug. 12. “This is something that is, I think, new for everybody.”

Crews continue to reinforce fire guards in the Irish Creek area Wednesday and firefighters are mopping up any hot spots. On the east flank, ground and aerial crews work to defend containment lines above the community while guards are being built in the Naswhito Creek area.

Firefighters have been successful in holding the line in the north, especially after a planned ignition was recently completed. BCWS said little wildfire growth has been observed in recent days. Firefighters continue to mop up hot spots where the ignition took place.

A total of 143 firefighters from various departments are working to defend properties from fire; 20 remained on-site overnight.

More than 250 wildland firefighters, 16 helicopters, 57 pieces of heavy equipment and 17 danger tree fallers are assigned to the fire.

READ MORE: Search continues for Alberta man presumed to have drowned in Mara Lake near Sicamous

READ MORE: Hundreds of White Rock Lake wildfire evacuees can return home


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B.C. Wildfires 2021