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Planned ignitions to cause increased smoke at West Kelowna wildfire

Wednesday’s planned ignition is set to be 350 hectares in size
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Smoke could be seen across the Central Okanagan on Tuesday, Sept. 5 because of planned ignitions executed by BC Wildfire Services. (Karen Hill/Black Press Media)

UPDATE 12:10 p.m.

The planned ignition BC Wildfire Services completed on Tuesday by Hidden Creek was much bigger than originally thought.

After stating the ignition would be about 25-30 hectares in size, favourable conditions allowed crews to continue north and northeast of the Hidden Creek Forest Service Road, ending with a 146-hectare successful ignition.

This provided an anchor for fire crews to safely work and develop systems for water suppression operations. Crews stayed late overnight to monitor guards in the area and respond if a hot spot occurred.

On Wednesday, crews are starting small hand ignitions within the containment lines.

BC Wildfire Service is also going to continue with the next phase of its bigger planned ignitions early Wednesday afternoon. This planned ignition is set to be 350 hectares in size and will burn unburnt fuel on the north and northwest sides of Carrot Mountain, adjacent to the Powers Creek Drainage, where the fire has been most active lately. This operation will cause smoke to be highly visible to local communities and commuters on Highway 97. The purpose of the ignition is to bring the fire down to constructed containment lines where crews can safely and effectively extinguish the blaze’s edge over the coming days.

“Both of these planned ignition operations are critical to reducing the threat of the McDougall Creek wildfire to adjacent communities,” states BCWS. “Planned ignitions are a very useful tactic in fire suppression …it allows us to bring the fire perimeter down to control lines and creates a more uniform and continuous fire edge which is easier for crews to use direct attack methods on and extinguish hot spots to strengthen control lines and achieve containment. This is also more time-efficient and safer for the crews as they have to spend less time chasing hot spots and patches of free-burning fire in rough terrain.”

Fire crews have experienced lower fire activity at higher elevations but the blaze had the potential to work down a gradient towards Okanagan Valley. With little to no precipitation in the forecast, fire activity is moderate (rank 3) but isolated increased (rank 4) fire behaviour is a possibility along the Powers Creek Drainage.

In Glenrosa, more than 250 structure protection personnel remain in place with trailers, a mass water delivery system, and more at the ready as a precaution.

Four heavy equipment task force teams (approximately 20 pieces of heavy equipment) are continuing to build a machine guard from the Glenrosa community, tying into the Jack Creek Forest Service Road and down to Lambly Lake. This is expected to be completed by Thursday, Sept. 7.

BCWS is reminding the public that nobody is allowed in the area restriction/evacuation order zone. Members of the public continue to be found along Jack Pine Forest Service Road as they attempt to access properties by boat along Okanagan Lake. For the foreseeable future, Kelowna RCMP and conservation officers will remain on the scene to continue to enforce the area restriction order. Anyone found in the area is subject to a $1,150 fine.

The order is in place for many reasons including:

•Heavy equipment and chainsaw operators: Heavy equipment and chainsaw operators can’t hear or see you when operating equipment;

•Ash pits: Deep, intensely burning stumps and tree roots may result in hot ashpits underground that can lead to severe burns if you step or fall into one;

•Falling trees: Drought and burnt-out tree roots cause unstable trees that may fall at any time, especially if it’s windy.

Original

A plume of smoke could be seen across the Central Okanagan on Tuesday night as the BC Wildfire Service executed a planned ignition at the McDougall Creek wildfire in West Kelowna.

The planned ignition took place in the Hidden Creek area by aerial crews with the support of ground crews. It was 25-30 hectares in size and removed unburnt fuel and it made a safer anchor spot for ground crews, to provide more opportunity for future planned ignitions.

Additionally, Central Okanagan Emergency Operations announced Tuesday afternoon that they would safely allow access to residents on evacuation order to check their homes and retrieve items.

“We have received numerous calls from residents requesting short-term access to properties for a variety of reasons such as picking up equipment and retrieving important documents left behind, especially with school starting today,” said Emergency Operation Centre Director Mac Logan. “We know this is a challenging time for residents and hope that a short stop at home will relieve some of the stress.”

This process starts on Wednesday with residents from Raymer/Sailview Bay. The following addresses will be able to see their homes:

  • 697 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 901 WESTSIDE RD S (unit numbers 1 through 27)
  • 975 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 985 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1041 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1051 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1053 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1054 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1059 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1060 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1067 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1068 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1072 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1075 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1076 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1078 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1079 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1080 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1084 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1095 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1101 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1105 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1179 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1111 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1305 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 1415 WESTSIDE RD S

The following addresses in the area are not allowed to see their homes on Wednesday after safety concerns in the area reassessed and reevaluated:

  • 631 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 639 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 643 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 649 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 653 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 657 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 661 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 675 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 683 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 691 WESTSIDE RD S
  • 697 WESTSIDE RD S

The temporary access is on a schedule, created by Central Okanagan Emergency Services, which is as follows:

  • Wednesday, September 6 for the area – Raymer/Sailview Bay;
  • Thursday, September 7 for the area – Traders Cove/Pine Point;
  • Friday, September 8 for the area – Wilson’s Landing;
  • Saturday, September 9 for the area – Bear Creek Road/Rose Valley North.

This will happen from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is subject to change based on wildfire conditions and RCMP priorities. Residents are to check in and leave through an RCMP checkpoint on Westside Road and Lindley Road and must have the following:

  • Show their government-issued photo identification to confirm they live in the area, or present a property tax notice or utility documentation if the property is a recreation or secondary property;
  • Travel directly to and from their home, as directed by RCMP and obey traffic control personnel working on the road;
  • Refrain from taking pictures of other homes.

Emergency Operations and the RCMP also have guidelines in place for people taking advantage of the temporary access:

Permitted:

  • Drive directly to your property and directly back out through the same checkpoint;
  • Collect documents, medication or other personal items;
  • Pick up gear, clothes, tools, equipment or a vehicle;
  • Check on house and contents.

Not Permitted:

  • Only property owners are permitted;
  • Visit a house that has been lost in the wildfire if a fire inspection has not been conducted;
  • Use shower, bathroom or laundry facilities (water and power may not be available);
  • Clean out fridge or freezer;
  • Sight-see in the neighbourhood or stop to take pictures for friends, family and neighbours;
  • Walk around the neighbourhood or enter a neighbour’s property.

RCMP will be patrolling the area as well to make sure guidelines are being followed. Visits are for families only and recommended for people 19 and older. Additionally, residents are being asked to clear the property clothing for the occasion - long-sleeved shirts, pants, close-toed shoes and face masks before entering because of smoke and ash in the area. The risk of wildfire is also present in the area.

Transport Canada and the BC Wildfire Service prohibit the use of drones of any size near a wildfire. The operation of any aircraft not associated with fire suppression activities within a radius of five nautical miles around a fire, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones), is illegal. Anyone found interfering with wildfire control efforts may face penalties of up to $100,000 and or up to one year in jail.

BC Wildfire Service is reminding the public that nobody is allowed in the area restriction/evacuation order zone. Members of the public continue to be found along Jack Pine Forest Service Road as they attempt to access properties by boat along Okanagan Lake. For the foreseeable future, Kelowna RCMP and conservation officers will remain on scene to continue to enforce the area restriction order. Anyone found in the area is subject to a $1,150 fine. The order is in place for many reasons including:

•Heavy equipment and chainsaw operators (Heavy equipment and chainsaw operators can’t hear or see you when operating equipment);

•Ash pits: Deep, intensely burning stumps and tree roots may result in hot ashpits underground that can lead to severe burns if you step or fall into one;

•Falling trees: Drought and burnt-out tree roots cause unstable trees that may fall at any time, especially if it’s windy.

The McDougall Creek wildfire is currently at 13,712 hectares but the size of the blaze hasn’t been updated since Aug. 29. It remains out of control and a wildfire of note.

READ MORE: ‘This happens every year’: Kelowna RCMP educating public as school’s back in session

READ MORE: SUV fire in Kelowna spreads to an acre in size


@cunninghamjordy
jordy.cunningham@kelownacapnews.com

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Jordy Cunningham

About the Author: Jordy Cunningham

Hailing from Ladner, B.C., I have been passionate about sports, especially baseball, since I was young. In 2018, I graduated from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops with a Bachelor of Journalism degree
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