UPDATE (1 p.m.):
The bulk of firefighting efforts today are along the west shore of Okanagan Lake, said BC Wildfire Services incident commander Scott Rennick.
Most structure protection units and firefighters are in this 35-kilometre stretch from the White Rock Lake’s southern to northern tip along Westside Road to defend properties against the fire above houses, Rennick said.
“We’ve had a lot of success in protecting structures and securing an edge,” he said in an afternoon update, Friday, Aug. 20.
A 52 km contingency guard from Chapperon Lake to Fintry Park has been established south of the fire perimeter, according to the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations.
In the northeast flank, Rennick said the fire is burning in an “inoperable area on step cliff edges.” The smoke from this is visible from the Armstrong and northern Vernon.
Fire crews are working 16 to 18-hour days to build a guard and containment line from Irish Creek working westward and from Cedar Creek working eastward.
This containment line, Rennick said, will bring the fire down to crews, “on our terms.”
“This is a story of two fires now,” he said. The west flank burning southeast of Kamloops around Monte Lake and Paxton and the other half, burning near Okanagan Lake.
“The west flank receives more rain,” he said, while the Okanagan side doesn’t receive a lot of precipitation.
That may change soon as the forecast calls for showers.
“Hopefully we’ll get some weather in the coming days,” Rennick said, noting it will slow activity down enough for crews to work on fire guards and containment efforts.
The greater than 80,000-hectare fire is about 50 kilometres wide and 60 km from tip to tip, Rennick said, and increased fire activity is observed day by day as fuels dry up after last weekend’s rainfall.
Cooler weather did aid in fire suppression efforts but conditions remain extremely dry.
“As another day came to an end, I was reminded of the amazing people of the North Westside resolve to keep on going,” said North Westside Fire Rescue Fire Chief Alex Can Bruksvoort. “The phone calls of humanity towards their animals and pets, kept coming in to the volunteers to rescue.”
“The Regional District of Central Okanagan and fire crews of North Westside will continue to support multiple agencies, until it’s safe to bring the residents into the area to continue their healing and to make their plans for the future, on the North Westside.”
Planning is underway to provide property owners with a tour of the area and details will be provided to homeowners when they become available.
Rain in the forecast will offer the 278 wildland firefighters battling the 81,139-hectare White Rock Lake wildfire some help in the coming days, said BC Wildfire Services, for the short term.
“The White Rock Lake wildfire is still very active in many areas of the wildfire,” the 8 a.m. Friday (Aug. 20) update reads.
The Okanagan Indian Band, which was hard hit Aug. 15 by the wind-fuelled lightning-caused fire, said it was made aware of increased fire activity along the Irish Creek Thursday (Aug. 19).
A guard is being constructed from Irish Creek west and from Cedar Creek east. Meanwhile, firefighters continue to mop up and extinguish hot spots on OKIB IR#1 along Westside Road and in the Fintry and Ewing area.
No fire growth was observed north of Highway 97 Thursday, the provincial agency said. Firefighters continue with direct-attack methods, dousing the fire with water and mopping up through affected communities around Monte Lake.
Aerial crews continue to monitor the west flank where no growth has been observed over the past few days.
The fire is now recorded as being only about 10 kilometres west of Vernon and an evacuation alert is still in effect for some communities within city limits.
“We are being cautious,” City of Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming said. “The city is in close and regular contact with the BC Wildfire Service. We are watching fire and weather conditions daily and have had Vernon Fire Rescue Services survey the fire area.”
Canadian Lakeview Estated, Adventure Bay and a portion of Tronson Road (8125-9280) will remain under alert until conditions change.
“The White Rock Lake fire is far from over,” Cumming said. “Even though we are experiencing some reprieve with cooler weather, all of us must remain vigilant and continue to prepare ourselves, our families and our homes to face potentially changing conditions. We don’t know what the next few weeks will bring.”