Crews battle the White Rock Lake fire, which has some Westwold residents under evacuation order and even more on alert. (Brent Robertson photo)

Crews battle the White Rock Lake fire, which has some Westwold residents under evacuation order and even more on alert. (Brent Robertson photo)

UPDATE: White Rock Lake fire near Westwold now 8,702 hectares

Residents report suspicious activity in wildfire evacuation zone

UPDATE: 10:54 a.m.

Fire behaviour has been quiet this morning, BC Wildfire Service said in a Friday morning update, July 23.

“There was some downslope growth on the northeast flank last night, but minimal growth to the north,” BCWS said, noting the fire has grown more than 1,000 hectares — now estimated around 8,702 hectares.

Nineteen BCWS firefighters, 37 support staff and an incident management team are being assisted by four helicopters, 34 pieces of heavy equipment and one structural protection unit in Friday firefighting efforts.

ORIGINAL:

Aerial supports and BC Wildfire Service firefighters alongside industry partners continue to work on the White Rock Lake wildfire burning out of control near Westwold, but residents are now reporting suspicious activity in the evacuation zone.

Hundreds of properties were either already evacuated or remain on alert, according to the Thompson-Nicola Regional District map, but now, area resident Sandra Pringle, who has been the spokesperson for evacuees, said suspicious vehicles and “odd activity” have been spotted in the evacuation area.

READ MORE: VIDEO: Wildfire near Westwold closes road

RCMP, while seen patrolling in the area, has yet to provide comment on this report. This story will be updated when that information becomes available.

BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) said the fire, burning out of control at more than 7,400 hectares, had pockets of increased activity on the north flank that challenged guard lines, but airtankers were finally able to aid in the efforts.

Residents in Westwold and Monte Lake have been calling for additional air support since the fire was discovered July 13, even reaching out to local and provincial politicians.

READ MORE: Residents plead for more air support on fire threatening Westwold

BCWS said airtanker use has been hampered by high winds, heavy smoke and the region’s topography. In the provincial agency’s most recent update (Thursday, July 22) BCWS said it will continue to re-evaluate the opportunity for airtanker support each day and will be utilized if conditions allow.

Nineteen BCWS firefighters, 28 support staff and an incident management team were assisted by three helicopters, 26 pieces of heavy equipment and one structural protection unit battled the blaze Thursday.

Tolko Industries Ltd. communications advisor Chris Downey said members of staff, consultants and contractors have been aiding in the firefighting efforts at this and several other area wildfires in the Okanagan.

Additional crews are expected to arrive in the coming days.

Four new fires were recorded sparked in the North Okanagan area on Thursday night (July 22). All origins are still unknown at this time.

A fire around the Sugar Lake Forest Service Road is reportedly burning around 1.5 hectares, a 285-hectare fire at Vigue Creek and 260-hectare fire around Hobson Peak are burning in the vicinity of Monashee Provincial Park and a three-hectare fire around Spectrum Creek was also noted.

READ MORE: Four new wildfires spotted in North Okanagan

READ MORE: ‘A light at the end of the tunnel’: Canadians hug loved ones in post-vaccine reunions



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B.C. Wildfires 2021