Fire Fighting in Canada

Uncategorized Emergency Management
Officials estimate fewer than 90 structural losses from West Kelowna wildfire

August 23, 2023 
By The Canadian Press


A more complete picture of the destruction and damage wrought by the wildfire that ripped through British Columbia’s West Kelowna area began coming into focus on Tuesday, with early estimates suggesting the blaze destroyed fewer than 90 structures but did not result in any deaths.

West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund said the damage toll so far includes fewer than 70 structures in West Kelowna and less than 20 on Westbank First Nation lands.

Kelowna Fire Department Chief Travis Whiting said the wildfire destroyed three homes and two outbuildings on four properties in the Okanagan city, while Lake Country Fire Chief Darren Lee said three homes have been lost in his community and an undetermined number of outbuildings.

“I really am beginning to feel like we’re beginning to turn the corner on this fire, and a major measure of that was the rescinding of some evacuation orders that were rescinded to alerts,” Brolund said.

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Brolund and Central Okanagan Regional District officials said further details will be released Tuesday informing residents about the status of their properties.

The Kelowna area was still covered in a haze of thick smoke on Tuesday, preventing residents from getting a clearer image of the fire’s wrath, but Brolund said clear skies are in the weather forecast.

Premier David Eby spent Tuesday in the southern Interior touring the wildfire zones with two of his cabinet ministers and Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s minister of emergency preparedness.

Eby said the goal of the visit was to reassure people the B.C. government will be there to help them rebuild once the crisis has passed, but also to get information from the front line about what communities need.

He stopped Tuesday at an evacuation centre in Kamloops at the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Nation, where he spoke with those who have fled the wildfires.

“I have seen first hand the stress people are under, the anxiety people are feeling,” Eby said. “A gentleman shared with me images of how close his home came to burning down in the Scotch Creek area.”

He said he heard another account of one man forced to hide under a bridge in the Shuswap Lake area and wait to be rescued by a passing boat.

Brolund said the heavy urban disaster Canada Task Force 1 team completed a specialized search of wildfire-stricken areas in West Kelowna and found no signs that anyone died.

He said he was not aware of any outstanding missing persons, a development he described as “very encouraging news.”

Brolund said firefighters have also been heartened by the praise of local residents who have been viewing their firefighting efforts through security cameras installed at their front doors.

“Often you’ve talked back to us through your doorbell cams and told us that we’re doing a good job,” he said.

West Kelowna resident Marnie Endersby said she has taken to social media hoping to find and thank the firefighter she saw on her security camera fighting to save her family’s home.

There are more than 27,000 people under evacuation orders across the province and more than 35,000 on evacuation alert due to several blazes, including the 110-square-kilometre McDougall Creek wildfire affecting West Kelowna, Kelowna and Lake Country.

The BC Wildfire Service said 100 firefighters from Mexico are expected to arrive in the province on Tuesday, and another 200 from South Africa by the end of the week.

Brad Litke with the BC Wildfire Service said the McDougall Creek wildfire in West Kelowna is currently estimated at 120 square kilometres.

He said the fire in the City of Kelowna is estimated at nearly eight square kilometres and the one burning in the District of Lake Country is nearly four square kilometres.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 22, 2023.


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