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West Kelowna fire chief says it was like ‘100 years of firefighting in one night’ with more to come

Click to play video: '‘It was worse than we had expected’: West Kelowna fire chief on challenging fight'
‘It was worse than we had expected’: West Kelowna fire chief on challenging fight
West Kelowna Fire Rescue Service Chief Jason Brolund said Friday morning that it was a difficult night Thursday fighting the fires around Kelowna. He said it is going to get worse but people should be prepared to leave if they are asked to and firefighters are in it for the long haul. – Aug 18, 2023

The fire burning through West Kelowna Thursday night was one of the most devastating the city’s fire chief has seen in his career, and he said it’s not expected to get better anytime soon.

“We fought hard last night to protect our community. Somebody described it to me, in the heat of the battle,  like 100 years of firefighting all at once in one night,” Jason Brolund, West Kelowna fire chief, said Friday morning during a briefing about the McDougall Creek wildfire.

“I really think that it was true.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. wildfires: Evacuation alerts and updates changing as McDougall Creek wildfire grows'
B.C. wildfires: Evacuation alerts and updates changing as McDougall Creek wildfire grows

Brolund said he joined his fellow firefighters on the ground at around 2 a.m. and undertook one of the biggest firefights he’s ever been a part of in the West Kelowna Estates neighborhood.

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Those firefighters held their ground and saved homes “too numerous to list” in West Kelowna Estates.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work that was done,” he said.

Of what was saved, was critical infrastructure in the Rose Valley neighborhood.

That includes the fire hall, the school,  the dam, and most significantly, the new Rose Valley Water Treatment Plant, a $75 million asset that is about to be turned on.

“I’m happy to report as of this morning that all of those structures are still standing there not damaged whatsoever,” he said.

“However, there was a significant number of structures that were lost last night.”

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Brolund wouldn’t offer the specific number on the losses just yet, noting that he wants to be accurate with the information he releases. Offering some perspective, however, he said there’s been a”gut-wrenching” amount of property loss.

The focus now is the firefight, which will be as significant today as it was last night with conditions not improving.

“We need to put our focus there. We need to stop this fire before it continues any further,” he said.

“Then we’ll get on to the counting. And then we’ll get on to getting people back to their homes when it’s safe.”

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Click to play video: 'B.C. resident records wildfire near West Kelowna'
B.C. resident records wildfire near West Kelowna

In the last 36 hours, Brolund said the wildfire service offered incredible support and there will be hundreds more boots on the ground today.

Kelowna fire chief Travis Whiting said that fire is being dealt with as one fire, with fire jurisdictions not being a concern.  The two fires sparked in Kelowna are a challenge, but Whiting said there have been no structures lost on the Kelowna side of the lake.

BC Wildfire said the McDougall Creek fire was by Friday morning an estimated 6,800 hectares or 68 square kilometers. Thursday it was mapped at 1,100 hectares

As of Thursday, there were evacuation orders in place for 2,462 properties and evacuation alerts for 4,801 properties, according to Central Okanagan emergency services.  Added to that Friday, was an evacuation order for properties north of Nahun to, but not including, La Casa.

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Aided by high winds and dry conditions, the fire that started in the mountains above West Kelowna roared into residential areas within the Central Okanagan Regional District and City of West Kelowna boundaries early Thursday night. Embers from McDougall were seen travelling Okanagan Lake and it’s believed that two fires sparked in Kelowna were caused by it.

This led to more evacuation orders being issued in Kelowna overnight.

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

Properties in the Hidden Lake and Still Pond area were on Thursday placed under an evacuation order as crews respond to fires in the Clifton/McKinley areas of Kelowna.

On Friday morning, that order was expanded to include properties in the Shayler area have been placed under Evacuation Order.

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Later in Friday afternoon, properties in the Glenmore Road area were also placed under Evacuation Order. All properties west of Glenmore Rd North located north of John Hindle Dr intersection up to McKinley Road  properties are being tactically evacuated by emergency responders.

Overnight an evacuation centre was opened at Prospera Place, where evacuees could shelter. Emergency Support Service reception centres are also open in West Kelowna, Kelowna and Vernon this morning.

WATCH FULL AUG. 18 PRESS CONFERNCE:

 

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