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B.C. wildfire update: Massive White Rock Lake fire continues to challenge crews

Rob Schweitzer from the BC Wildfire Service provides an update on the current fire status Tuesday, August 3. He says it's been a week of steady progress, but visibility remains a challenge due to wildfire smoke. – Aug 3, 2021

Wildfire crews have managed a “week of steady progress” battling huge fires across the province, Rob Schweitzer, director, Fire Centre Operations with the BC Wildfire Service said Tuesday.

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So far this season, there have been 1,312 fires ignited with more than 550,000 hectares scorched, he added.

There are 34 wildfires of note that are a threat to public safety or highly visible.

Schweitzer said visibility remains a problem for crews however, with some precipitation falling on some fires but a return of the hot and dry conditions has led to increased smoke in many regions.

Not enough rain fell to make any significant difference.

Despite these issues, to date crews have flown more than 4,000 hours with the Wildfire Service air tanker fleet and more than 23,000 hours with its helicopters, Schweitzer added.

About 4,500 properties remain on evacuation order, while more than 21,000 are on evacuation alert.

One of the most aggressive fires burning is the White Rock Lake fire, west of Vernon.

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That blaze has grown to 32,500 hectares, and over the weekend, moved 14 kilometres in just one night.

Officials have issued a number of new evacuation orders and alerts as residents create their own fireguards around their properties.

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Smoke from the fire was causing big problems at the Kelowna International Airport and flights were cancelled since planes could not take off or land.

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Flights were expected to resume Tuesday afternoon.

The White Rock Lake fire received some precipitation over the past 48 hours. However, the BC Wildfire Service said given the drought conditions, the minimal precipitation provided only a short reprieve. A weak southwest flow will bring drier, warmer air back to the region on Tuesday, quickly drying out forest fuels.

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Winds could also pick up Tuesday afternoon.

In some good news, the evacuation order for properties around Spences Bridge was downgraded at noon Tuesday.

Highway 8 also reopened at the same time.

Dozens of properties have been under evacuation alert or order for weeks, with the Lytton Creek wildfire burning nearby.

It has scorched more than 51,000 hectares so far.

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Schweitzer reminded every British Columbian on Tuesday that it is only early August and everyone needs to remain diligent.

Over the long weekend, the vast majority of new fire starts were due to natural causes, he said, but there were some human-caused fires that needed to be put out.

“So far the 2021 season has been very busy for our crews,” Schweitzer said.

“If you would like to support our work please post a sign thanking them for their work.”



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