2,500 forced from West Kelowna homes as wildfire sets stage for ‘difficult night’

Click to play video: 'West Kelowna wildfire to be “very dramatic” overnight says fire chief'
West Kelowna wildfire to be “very dramatic” overnight says fire chief
WATCH ABOVE: West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund said Thursday that the wildfire "is going to be very dramatic overnight," with visible flames and smoke, along with falling ash and possible floating embers – Aug 17, 2023

About 2,500 people have been forced from their homes in West Kelowna and emergency officials are warning residents to brace for a nerve-wracking night as a wildfire descends on the community.

“All of the predictions we expected came true,” West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund said in a media briefing Thursday evening.

“I remain gravely concerned for the fire and where it’s going and how it’s going to affect our community. Tonight is going to be a difficult night.”

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The McDougall Creek wildfire was discovered Tuesday, but with help from powerful winds, ballooned from about 300 hectares Thursday morning to 1,100 hectares by the evening.

An initial evacuation order for 68 properties Thursday afternoon was followed by multiple others throughout the evening. Brolund said close to 1,000 properties were covered by orders as of 7:30 p.m., and he expected that number to grow.

Another 6,000 homes were under evacuation alerts.

Click to play video: 'B.C. wildfires: Structures lost in West Kelowna as thousands forced to flee amid new fires'
B.C. wildfires: Structures lost in West Kelowna as thousands forced to flee amid new fires

Thankfully, no homes have yet been lost and no one has been injured. Brolund said firefighters also mounted a Herculean effort to deploy sprinkler protection for all of the community’s critical infrastructure, including its new water treatment plant.

That said, Brolund warned residents that Thursday night would be stressful.

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“The fire is going to be very dramatic tonight. As it gets dark, the fire is going to look like it’s right on top of the community … there will be glow and huge flames visible,” he said.

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“There will be ash falling in your neighbourhoods … there could potentially be embers falling as well, and that’s where we grow very concerned.”

Firefighters from across the region have deployed to assist West Kelowna crews and will be patrolling neighbourhoods to protect them. Anyone who sees fires start up is urged to call 911 immediately.

West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom urged people to stay safe, follow all instructions from emergency officials and avoid taking any short cuts if evacuated.

“Residents should be prepared to be away from their home for an extended period of time,” he said.

“If you are in an evacuation order area, you must leave the area immediately. Failure to leave when asked by emergency services puts you and others at risk.”

Westbank First Nation Chief Robert Louie said his community is working with the city and regional district, with plans to open the doors to its facilities for evacuees if needed.

“This is a very dire, very serious situation,” he said.

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“There is no question about the intent of where this fire seems to be going. It is out of control.”

Earlier Thursday, provincial emergency officials warned that the next 24 to 48 hours were likely to be the most challenging of the summer, as a stretch of hot, dry weather gave way to strong winds.

Click to play video: 'McDougal Creek wildfire sparks state of emergency'
McDougal Creek wildfire sparks state of emergency

Evacuees are being directed to register for emergency support services online (ESS) or attend the evacuee information centre at Royal LePage Place at 2760 Cameron Road in West Kelowna.

The district is urging people who to secure temporary accommodations with friends or family if possible, but said they can access group lodging if necessary at the ESS reception centre.

An interactive map of all properties under evacuation order or evacuation alert can be found at the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations website.

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Evacuation orders in the community now cover all properties along Westside Rd from Bear Creek Forest Service Road South to Westbank First Nation IR#10, including:

  • 1 – 386 Westside Rd
  • Traders Cove Rd
  • Siemens Rd
  • Edith Crt
  • Heldon Crt
  • Sailview Bay

All properties on Bartley Road north of Shannon Lake Road, including:

  • Lenz Road
  • 1620 Stevens Road
  • 1830 Shannon Lake Road

All of the Rose Valley subdivision has also been added to the order, including

  • Roseridge Crt
  • Rosewood Dr
  • Rosealee Lane
  • Jok Mar Crt
  • Rosewood Crt
  • Rosemary Crt
  • Roseabby Dr
  • Rosefield Dr
  • Rosealee Crt
  • Rose Meadow Dr
  • Rose Hill Pl
  • Rose Anne Crt
  • Rose Tree Rd

Areas north of Westlake Road and Parkinson Road were also recently added to the Evacuation Order area, including:

  • Pettman Rd
  • Bowes Rd
  • Blackwood Dr
  • Klein Rd
  • Guest Rd
  • Valois Crt
  • McPhail Crt

All properties accessed off Bear Creek Road to the north of Parkinson Road are affected, including:

  • Dougmac Road
  • Petterson Road
  • Rose Valley Road
  • 1045 Bear Creek Road
  • 2740 Smith Creek Road
  • 2850 Dixie Road
  • 1075 Bear Creek Road
  • 495 Bear Creek Road
  • 525 Bear Creek Road
  • 551 Bear Creek Road
  • 573 Bear Creek Road
  • 611 Bear Creek Road
  • 674 Bear Creek Road
  • 724 Bear Creek Road
  • 779 Bear Creek Road
  • 875 Bear Creek Road
  • 944 Bear Creek Road
Click to play video: 'B.C. wildfires: Next 24 to 48 hours could be the most challenging of the summer'
B.C. wildfires: Next 24 to 48 hours could be the most challenging of the summer

According to BC Wildfire, 21 wildland firefighters are on scene, plus four helicopters. Aerial crews also attacked the blaze in the morning.

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Environment Canada has issued weather alerts advising of gusty winds Thursday and overnight, which may worsen wildfire conditions and possible new fire starts.

For a map showing the affected properties, visit Central Okanagan Emergency Operations.

You can find information on how to prepare for an evacuation here.

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