Many residents of the Westwold area were on edge Tuesday as the out-of-control White Rock Lake wildfire continued to grow towards their community.
The fire surged again Tuesday afternoon and residents are concerned they are not seeing enough air support on the blaze.
The core of the unincorporated community along Highway 97, in B.C.’s North Okanagan, is on evacuation alert and rural areas to the south are on evacuation order.
Estimated to be 3,000 hectares on Monday, the fire had grown by over a thousand hectares to an estimated 4,352 hectares by Tuesday morning.
Curtis was under an evacuation alert when she spoke to Global News. That has since been upgraded to an evacuation order.
The area is under a blanket of smoke and Curtis said, on Monday, the ash that was landing was still hot.
Residents have been pulling together to help each other and get animals out of harm’s way.
Curtis had 13 horses on her property on Monday but decided to move them further from the fire after the evacuation order area expanded to within a few hundred metres of her house.
Local logging companies have put resources on the fire, but many residents are concerned the blaze is not getting enough air support.
“I think maybe we’ve heard the odd helicopter. There is no air response going on up here, which is stressful for us. It is a hot, fast fire that is being driven by wind and I understand that it is difficult terrain, but it’s just picked up way too fast,” Curtis said.
Regional district electoral area director Ken Gillis said he has heard similar concerns.
The BC Wildfire Service said it did have helicopters on the fire Tuesday, but Monday conditions were “very very smoky” and unsafe for air tankers.
Tuesday afternoon, McCulley said the wildfire service did see a window of opportunity to run air tankers, but unfortunately not on the edge of the fire near Westwold
“We are seeing a small window where we are going to try to apply some retardant on the northwest corner near Salmon Lake. This will help us secure some anchor points for our crews, help work the guard lines in a safe manner and help reinforce those,” McCulley said.
As the chair of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, which is facing numerous fires, Gillis is keenly aware his community is not the only one in need of protection right now.
“I would just say to the people of Westwold, by all means keep your chin up. We are doing everything we can possibly do to get as much help as possible and we share your pain. I know that that and five bucks will get you a cup of coffee, but we are aware. Nobody is taking this lightly,” Gillis said.