Local fire crews answering the province’s call to help in West Kelowna say it is like “a war zone” in the devastated Okanagan community.
White Rock fire Chief Ed Wolfe said the description was shared during one of the daily updates he’s received from the three-man crew that left the seaside city early Friday (Aug. 18) to lend their skills.
“They’ve been working suppression, structure protection the entire time there so far,” Wolfe said Monday of Capt. Doug Smith and firefighters Paul Farrant and Scott Pearson.
“It’s a pretty volatile situation, dynamic. It’s been fluid since they’ve been there.”
The crew is among hundreds of firefighters from across the province that have deployed to the McDougall Creek wildfire, which has grown to more than 11,000 hectares in size and posed an unprecedented challenge over the past weekend in particular.
In a news conference Monday morning, West Kelowna fire Chief Jason Brolund said at least 50 structures have been confirmed either partially or entirely lost, however, assessment of the most damaged neighbourhoods has yet to come.
He said crews from “dozens and dozens and dozens” of fire departments have been pitching in.
The BC Wildfire Service continues to respond to the McDougall Creek wildfire (K52767) adjacent to West Kelowna, the Walroy Lake wildfire (K52808) adjacent to Glenmore and the Clarke Creek wildfire (K42815) on the west side of Lake Country. pic.twitter.com/AXstbWCpsT— BC Wildfire Service (@BCGovFireInfo) August 20, 2023
When White Rock and Surrey crews got the call to help on Thursday night, it did not come as a surprise.
“We deployed on Friday morning at 0600,” Wolfe said.
“We expected to get the call… so we were pretty much ready to go. We had a truck pretty much packed up and just waiting for the call, and sure enough, it came.”
An exchange crew from the city is lined up to deploy on Wednesday (Aug. 23).
All three of the White Rock firefighters currently in West Kelowna have helped out with wildfires in previous years. Surrey fire crews are also no strangers to lending a hand elsewhere in the province.
Deputy fire Chief David Burns said Monday that two four-man crews from halls across Surrey have been deployed to West Kelowna so far; the first headed out Thursday and the second on Sunday (Aug. 20).
Both chiefs said crews will continue to deploy for as long as needed.
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