National help being sent to the Okanagan for fires; cadet camp opens doors to evacuees

Click to play video: 'More resources brought in to help fight Okanagan fires'
More resources brought in to help fight Okanagan fires
WATCH: The federal government has confirmed today that multiple resources are being made available to help fight the many wildfires burning in the Okanagan. As Victoria Femia reports, that includes a housing camp for evacuees and firefighters. – Aug 20, 2023

Help is headed to the Okanagan from points across the country as wildfires continue to burn.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday that the Canadian Forces are being deployed to the Okanagan to assist with evacuations, staging and other logistical tasks.

Canada’s Minister of Emergency Preparedness Harjit Sajjan the federal government has been closely monitoring the situation in B.C.’s Interior and, as such, was able to deploy resources as quickly as possible.

“We have organizations like the Coast Guard already in place providing incident command support on (Okanagan Lake),” he said.

Click to play video: '‘Things are looking better but hard days ahead,’ West Kelowna fire chief says'
‘Things are looking better but hard days ahead,’ West Kelowna fire chief says

The added support will, however, be able to do everything from additional planning, utilizing aerial surveillance, and the deployment of transport helicopters, if needed, for supplies and manpower. They’re also trained to help in the initial wildfire attack.

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Additional support is coming in the way of well-known Okanagan housing, the Vernon cadet camp. It will be available until Sept. 3, at least, for both firefighting operations and evacuees and offers somewhere between 800 and 1,000 beds.

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“When it comes to the overall response, it’s one of the first things that was asked for by the B.C. government and the folks on the ground,” Sajjan said.

“They set up for a lot of bunks but there’s also room for individual rooms there.”

In addition to these assets,  Canada Task Force 1,  heavy urban search and rescuers are also being sent in, West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund announced early Sunday.

Click to play video: '‘Progress made on fire‘: Battle against West Kelowna fire ongoing'
‘Progress made on fire‘: Battle against West Kelowna fire ongoing

They respond to requests for assistance from Canada’s provinces and territories for natural or man-made disasters including flooding, landslides, building collapse and more.

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“This team brings incredible expertise and horsepower to our operation and will do for us some very difficult things,” Brolund said.

“Their mission is to help us stabilize the incident to conduct searches and rapid damage assessment.”

The powerful thing about that team is that they are self-sufficient and they’re able to deploy without any impact to our community or existing operation, he added.

As of Saturday night, the fire was mapped at 11,00 hectares. However, BC Wildfire Service official, Jerrad Schroeder, said visibility has been challenging and limited their ability to get an updated aerial track at this time.

Overnight, there were no further evacuations or properties lost due to the Central Okanagan fires burning and gains on the front lines were made.

Click to play video: 'More homes destroyed by wildfire in West Kelowna'
More homes destroyed by wildfire in West Kelowna

Currently there are 500 firefighters working to get right out to the control lines that have been constructed by the wildfire service.

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While progress has been made, fire officials said there’s no available timeline for when the fire will be under control.

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