With thousands evacuated from their homes, hotel rooms are booked and any additional wildfire evacuees could be forced elsewhere.
Vernon’s chief administrative officer Will Pearce updated city council on the current wildfire conditions Monday, Aug. 16, specifically for the 78,190-hectare White Rock Lake blaze burning into Spallumcheen, Okanagan Indian Band and Westwold.
“Fire conditions are changing dramatically, virtually by the hour,” Pearce said, noting that staff are getting updates from BC Wildfire Service three times daily, if not more.
Rainfall Monday (Aug. 16) diminished fire behaviour for the short-term but isn’t enough to have a lasting effect, according to BCWS.
The Emergency Operations Centre was put into action Sunday night after Spallumcheen evacuation orders were issued.
The Emergency Support Services Centre handled 200 evacuees before closing at midnight Aug. 15, and another 200 by Monday afternoon with long lineups continuing. Another 110-130 Columbia Shuswap Regional District evacuees and 25 Regional District of North Okanagan evacuees were dealt with Sunday evening.
Pearce estimates there are about 1,400 Okanagan Indian Band clients.
In regards to room availability, “There is none in Vernon,” according to Pearce. If that situation continues and there is an evacuation order for Armstrong and the rest of Spallumcheen, those residents could be directed to Revelstoke or elsewhere.
“We strongly encourage evacuees under alert to make plans now, and the preference is that they evacuate to friends and family,” Pearce said. “We have been struggling over the past week to get sufficient accommodations to evacuees.”
Following aggressive wind-fuelled fire behaviour Sunday (Aug. 15), officials informed Pearce they are confident the blaze will not jump Okanagan Lake.
“They see the fire moving north and east into the OKIB lands and the southern end of Spallumcheen,” Pearce said.
The OKIB is operating out of the Schubert Centre, while new registrants are being sent to Penticton.
Another 700-plus people are on evacuation alert on the Westside of the Kamloops Cherry Creek fire, which includes OKIB lands.
A number of Vernon Fire Rescue Services resources are being used, with crews assisting in Sicamous, West Kelowna, Vernon and Westside.
A dozen pieces of firefighting apparatus are stationed at key locations, including the Eastside Road area, Foothills, Blue Jay subdivisions, etc. And crews are patrolling the city.
“Their role is to monitor for spot fires and embers coming across the lake,” Pearce said.
There are more than 400 firefighters and structural protection units from across the province at the BCWS camp set up at the former Kin Race Track lands.
Knowing they are here helps, said Pearce.
“In these conditions, I think we’re a lot better off having 400 or 500 firefighters in town right now,” he said.