UPDATE: 8 p.m.
An evacuation alert for properties in Westbank First Nation has been rescinded.
Properties from IR9 Old Okanagan Highway to Highway 97 and IR10 South of Highway 97 are no longer on alert.
Visit cordemergency.ca to view a map of evacuation orders and alerts and for updates. For more information, contact the information line at 250-469-8490 (local) or 1-877-569-8490 (toll-free).
All people are asked to stay off of Okanagan lake north of the William R. Bennett Bridge to allow unhindered access to BC Wildfire Service aircraft.
UPDATE 11 a.m.
A wet, calm night kept fire activity low at the McDougall Creek wildfire on Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning.
The wildfire received anywhere from 1-5 millimetres of rain, helping calm parts of the fire.
On Tuesday, the evacuation alerts were extended as a precaution. All evacuation alerts and orders remain in effect. At this time, an estimated 487 properties are under evacuation order and 21,077 properties are under evacuation alert.
As the fire changes and improved over time, Central Okanagan Emergency Operations will assess and adjust evacuation orders and alerts. Residents under evacuation alert must be ready to leave at a moment’s notice in case fire activity increases.
Today (Wednesday, Aug. 30), increased fire activity is expected to continue in the Powers Creek Drainage, close to the Glenrosa and Westbank neighbourhoods. A total of 85 additional structure personnel joined the area on Tuesday afternoon and remain there in case of potential spot fires. Should the fire grow into Glenrosa, more than 250 personnel are at the ready.
“Their purpose was to prepare and defend the closest neighbourhoods to the fire and address any ember showers that were produced by the winds,” said West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund in a press release on Wednesday. “Sprinklers were also installed and activated to protect the Powers Creek Water Treatment Plant.”
Heavy machinery task forces are also continuing to build a machine guard in the Glenrosa/Powers Creek area, connecting the Bear Main Forest Service Road around the west side of Crystal Mountain, back around into Glenrosa Road continuing east above the Glenrosa community. Crews are using additional forest service roads as much as possible.
On Tuesday, a planned ignition at the took place west/northwest in the Terrace Ridge area south towards Mt. Swite and winds in the area actually helped crews, instead of causing additional problems. Crews planned for a 400 hectare planned ignition but only got 250 hectares completed as elevated humidity and light rain made it difficult for crews to ignite the fuels. The 250 completed hectares secured a containment line along the west and northwest flanks.
Crews will complete the planned ignition on Wednesday with help from 100 fire fighters from South Africa that have arrived. They will also help extinguish the fire’s edge along machine guards.
Efforts to take down the blaze will continue over the next few weeks. As that happens, residents are expected to see smoke and flames in the area.
“Today, we are feeling better about the weather forecast and fire conditions in West Kelowna,” said Brolund. “However, this wildfire will be an ongoing threat in the Glenrosa area for a while to come. For just how long we cannot predict with active weather. A large amount of wildfire remains just behind our West Kelowna community. The rain last night and in the coming days will help, but it will not put the fire out.”
Multiple times over the last few days, fire crews have been disrupted by multiple drones in the area. Conservation officers have seized the drones and have found and fined the operators.
“I urge the public to remain vigilant and alert today and, in the days ahead, always adhering to all Alerts and Orders issued by the EOC,” said Brolund. “We will continue to take decisive actions to protect the neighbourhoods threatened by the wildfire. Today, we will continue to focus on the safe return of evacuees to the most damaged neighbourhoods in West Kelowna. This is a process I expect to continue until early next week.”
Despite increased fire activity due to windy conditions on Tuesday, there were no major changes to the McDougall Creek wildfire in West Kelowna overnight.
Throughout Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, there were also no changes to any evacuation alerts or orders. Residents are asked to stay up to date through the CORD emergency site and also subscribe to receive e-updates.
Crews were experiencing increased fire activity at the southwest corner of the blaze. It’s unknown at this time how much the overnight rainfall helped crews battle the blaze. To respond to the increased activity, additional crews, including structure protection, and aerial support arrived on scene. This was a precautionary measure in case there is significant spotting in the Power Creek drainage area and beyond.
Throughout the day on Wednesday, it is forecasted to be cloudy with a chance of showers, winds reaching 20 km/h, and a high of 24 C. A special weather statement remains in effect because of smoke in the area.
The fire remains at 12,635 hectares and is one of 12 wildfires of note across the province.
The McDougall Creek fire in West Kelowna is part of the Grouse Complex, which also includes the Walroy Lake wildfire in Kelowna and the Clarke Creek wildfire in Lake Country.
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 up to $100,000 and or up to one year in jail.
Black Press Media will keep updated throughout the day.