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Dry weather concerns loom as more B.C. wildfire evacuees allowed back home

Rainy conditions have helped curb fires and allow residents and visitors to return to some evacuated areas in B.C.'s Central Okanagan, but dry weather is expected to increase fire activity again throughout the area and North Shuswap.

Visitors asked to check with local governments before booking travel to B.C. Interior

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The latest on the wildfires:

Rainy conditions have helped curb fires and allow residents and visitors to return to some evacuated areas in B.C.'s Central Okanagan, but dry weather is expected to increase fire activity again throughout the area and North Shuswap.

Late Thursday, the provincial government lifted travel restrictions in West Kelowna that prevented travellers from booking hotels or coming to the community.

Local governments and First Nations were able to find the hotel space they needed for those evacuated by the 123-square-kilometre McDougall Creek wildfire that is burning out of control nearby, according to B.C.'s emergency management minister Bowinn Ma.

"Given the evolving situation and the accommodation we've secured, we are now lifting the travel restriction to West Kelowna," Ma said in a Thursday news release.

Some flights also began to arrive and depart from Kelowna International Airport once again, after the airport closed its airspace to commercial aircraft on Aug. 18. The airport is expected to fully re-open over the weekend.

Brad Litke with the B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS) also said weather has been favourable to firefighting efforts, but temperatures are expected to rise toward the weekend, and crews are expecting to see a rise in fire activity in the Grouse Complex wildfires, particularly the McDougall Creek wildfire.

Litke said crews are working on a planned ignition by the Shannon Lake Golf Course in West Kelowna to "address the pockets of unburned fuel on the steep slopes that could challenge containment … when fire behaviour conditions are expected to increase in the coming days."

An ignition operation might also take place above the Smith Creek drainage, Litke said.

Homecomings begin

Fire officials say more people are able to return home soon in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Lake Country as several evacuation orders have been downgraded to alerts since Wednesday.

All remaining evacuation orders in the City of Kelowna were lifted on Thursday.

Litke said Thursday that both the Clifton/McKinley fire in Kelowna and the Clark Creek wildfire in Lake Country to the north are now classified as being held, which means they are not likely to spread beyond predetermined boundaries under current conditions.

Whiting urged residents to go to the Central Okanagan Emergency Operation online portal, where it will be announced when neighbourhoods will be safe to return to.

At least 181 properties have been damaged or destroyed by the Grouse complex of fires in the Kelowna area, with more assessments underway.

More than 25,000 are still out of their homes across B.C. as of Thursday, down from 30,000 last weekend.

Tension, uncertainty in Shuswap

An increase in fire activity is also expected in the Shuswap region, where more than 11,000 people remain on evacuation order because of the Bush Creek East fire.

The 410-square-kilometre fire is out of control and considered the province's top priority, according to BCWS fire information officer Forrest Tower.

There is currently no timeline for when evacuees may be able to return to their homes, nor any estimate of how many properties have been destroyed by the blaze.

The uncertainty has led to frustration among some community members, several of whom attempted to bypass an RCMP blockade on the Trans-Canada Highway near Sorrento, B.C., on Thursday.

WATCH | Protesters attempt to get around RCMP highway roadblock:

Frustration boils over in B.C.’s Shuswap region

7 hours ago

Duration 2:02

A group of protesters stormed a wildfire barricade in B.C.’s Shuswap region that some say is underserved by fire crews, but over-policed. More than 11,000 people in the area are under an evacuation order.

BCWS temporarily withdrew crews that afternoon and RCMP added more officers as a result.

Local emergency officials stressed that evacuation orders are in place due to dangerous conditions, and that it takes time to ensure areas are safe once the fire has receded.

READ MORE:


Anyone placed under an evacuation order should leave the area immediately.

Evacuation centres have been set up throughout the province to assist anyone evacuating from a community under threat from a wildfire.

To find the centre closest to you, visit the EmergencyInfoBC website.

Evacuees are encouraged to register with Emergency Support Services online, whether or not they access services at an evacuation centre.


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