The blanket of toxic smoke that has been stifling Central Okanagan residents throughout the week is expected to lift Tuesday, revealing a view many may not be ready for, fire officials said.
“We haven’t seen (the mountains) since the fire and it might be pretty dramatic to start to see what we’ve lost out there,” West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund said during the fire update about the Grouse Complex of wildfires that have thrown Kelowna, West Kelowna and Lake Country into turmoil.
Massive swaths of land have been scorched and Brolund said the fire took nearly 100 structures. He said fewer than 70 homes were lost in West Kelowna and fewer than 20 were lost in Westbank.
In Kelowna, there were three houses and two outbuildings lost and in Lake Country there were three homes lost. In areas of the regional district like Traders Cove, and Lake Okanagan Resort, there are an estimated 100 structures lost.
With the smoke lifting, Brolund said people can also expect to see BC Wildfire planes flying again as the wildfire service does what it can to knock the fires back from above.
For most, however, it means breathing a little easier, both literally and figuratively.
“I know we’re all struggling with the smoke out there,” Brolund said.
“It’s covered our city like a gray blanket and I know it kind of represents the way that a lot of you are feeling and it definitely represents the way that we’re feeling too.
“I know lots of you are tired. You’re tired of being out of your homes you’re tired of the situation that we’re in and so are we but we’re not stopping and get we’re not giving up and nor should you this.”
On Monday night, evacuation orders were lifted for many, however, alerts remain in place throughout Kelowna, West Kelowna, and Lake Country, the Central Okanagan Regional District Emergency Services announced in emails issued on Monday night.
BC Wildfire said they are expecting lighter winds today with a threat of thunderstorms and a hope for rain.
“Cooler temperatures today and higher relative humidities should provide for more stability and lower fire behaviour observed today on the fire grounds,” Brad Litke, commander of the Grouse Complex Wildfires, which encompasses the McDougall Creek wildfire, as well as the Glenmore and Lake Country wildfires.
The McDougall Creek wildfire currently we’re estimating the size of 12,000 hectares. The fire continues to see growth in the West and the northwest corners of that fire perimeter. Lake Country’s fire is mapped at 358 hectares and Kelowna’s is mapped at 777 hectares.
The province has 78 wildland firefighters and 15 helicopters battling the fire, and hundreds of firefighters from communities across B.C. are assisting with the complex.
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