Random Image Display on Page Reload

Homes destroyed, people trapped by fast-moving wildfire as thousands ordered to evacuate in B.C.’s Okanagan

Several properties have been destroyed by a fast-burning, "unpredictable" wildfire in the West Kelowna area, officials say, as crews brace for what the B.C. Wildfire Service has predicted will be the most challenging days of the province's fire season.

States of emergency declared in Kelowna area due to McDougall Creek fire

People sit on a bench at Waterfront Park as the McDougall Creek Wildfire burns in West Kelowna, British Columbia on Friday, August 18, 2023.

CBC News is providing live coverage of the wildfire from Kelowna and Vancouver. You can tune in on CBC Radio One, 88.9 FM in Kelowna, or by using the CBC Listen app or streaming online.

If the power or data on your device is low, you can get wildfire updates on CBC Lite, our low-bandwidth, text-only website.


THE LATEST:


WATCH LIVE | Coverage of the wildfires across B.C.:

BC Today | Live coverage of B.C. Wildfires

4 hours ago

Live

BC Today is where British Columbians connect on issues facing their lives and their community with host Michelle Eliot.

Officials say a significant number of homes have been destroyed by a fast-burning, "unpredictable" wildfire in the West Kelowna area as crews brace for what the B.C. Wildfire Service has predicted will be the most challenging days of the province's fire season.

More than 2,400 properties are under an evacuation order and more than 4,800 properties under an evacuation alert due to the encroaching McDougall Creek wildfire, which grew more than a hundredfold — from 64 hectares to 6,800 hectares (68 square kilometres) — in just 24 hours.

"It was a devastating night last night, probably the most challenging of my career," said West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund about the destructive fire. "We fought hard last night to protect our community.

"We fought 100 years worth of fires all in one night."

WATCH | West Kelowna fire chief describes fighting the aggressive blaze:

'A fire chief's worst nightmare': West Kelowna homes lost during 'devastating night'

3 hours ago

Duration 7:23

West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund says he felt like he was fighting 100 years of wildfires all at once as flames whipped into his city Thursday night.

Brolund said some emergency responders were trapped because they had to rescue residents who chose not to leave their properties despite being under evacuation order.

"That's the fire chief's worst nightmare," he said.

Brolund and Kelowna Fire Chief Travis Whiting said there were no lives lost despite the danger firefighters and residents faced.

On Friday morning, officials said properties had been destroyed in the Trader Cove area and Bear Lake Road north of West Kelowna.

Officials did not provide an exact number and said conditions would have to improve before a more thorough assessment could be carried out. Brolund said the losses were significant, but firefighters did manage to save properties.

The Central Okanagan Emergency Operation Centre issued a local state of emergency Thursday because of the fire, which is threatening suburbs, schools and businesses in the city and the neighbouring Westbank First Nation.

The City of Kelowna has also declared a state of emergency, as fire crews responded to spot fires coming across Okanagan Lake from the McDougall Creek blaze.

Environment Canada issued an updated special weather statement for the Okanagan Valley early Friday, saying strong, gusty winds shifting from the southwest to northwest will bring a risk of thunderstorms and dry lightning, as well as "localized severe winds" potentially exceeding 70 km/h.

Long-time West Kelowna resident Steven Francis was one of the thousands evacuated Thursday night. He said he's faced evacuation orders before but the intensity of the McDougall Creek fire is unlike anything he's experienced.

"It came right to our doorstep, with all its rage and fury and power. And I broke down," he said. "I had a moment and maybe I'm having one right now."

'Heroic work'

Kelowna Fire Chief Travis Whiting said no structures had been burned in his community, but both he and Brolund warned about embers being carried by the wind, which is also fanning the aggressive fire.

"We're going to be throwing everything we can at this fire," said Whiting about the ongoing efforts needed Friday.

Kelowna has a population of approximately 150,000 residents, while West Kelowna has about 36,000.

Across the province, 4,800 people are under an evacuation order while more than 23,500 are under an evacuation alert, Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness Bowinn Ma said at a news conference Friday afternoon.

"The past 24 hours have been incredibly challenging for people across B.C.," she said while praising firefighters for their "heroic work."

An evacuation order has been issued for the Clifton Road North and McKinley neighbourhoods north of downtown Kelowna, as well as for properties surrounding Hidden Lake and Still Pond. An expansion of that order was added Friday morning for properties in the Shayler area and for properties in the Glenmore Road area.

There is also an evacuation order for properties north of Nahun along the west side of Okanagan Lake along Westside Road, but not including those in La Casa.

Around 1 p.m. PT Friday, officials at UBC's Okanagan campus in Kelowna also issued an evacuation order for the school due fires burning nearby in the Clifton and McKinley areas of Kelowna.

Meanwhile, flights have been cancelled and the airspace closed at Kelowna International Airport so that aerial firefighting can be prioritized.

DriveBC says a travel advisory is in effect for Highway 97 through Kelowna and West Kelowna for a stretch of more than 60 kilometres between the communities of Coldstream and Peachland because of the wildfires. Drivers are being asked to avoid the area and be prepared for short-notice closures.

WATCH | Kelowna residents watch as smoke, flames loom over West Kelowna:

Smoke and flames loom over West Kelowna, B.C. as evacuations underway

16 hours ago

Duration 0:58

More than 1,000 properties have been ordered evacuated as wildfires rapidly spread toward West Kelowna, B.C.

Residents along the west side of Glenmore Road from McKinley Beach to John Hindle Road have been put on evacuation alert.

All evacuees are asked to register through a provincial portal.

Due to the high number of properties under evacuation orders and alerts, residents are being directed to an interactive map to search by address to find out how individual homes and businesses are affected.

Where evacuees should go

The regional district is also asking evacuees to contact friends and family as hotels, motels and other tourism operators in the area are at capacity.

Everyone covered by an evacuation alert is asked to be prepared to leave at a moment's notice as the province faces a highly volatile wildfire situation.

For those in Kelowna, a reception centre has been set up at the Salvation Army at 1480 Sutherland Dr.

Evacuees from West Kelowna who live south of Traders Cove can go to the Information Centre at Royal LePage Place at 2760 Cameron Rd.

For those who live north of Traders Cove, a reception centre for evacuees has been opened at Kal Tire Place at 3445 43rd Ave. in Vernon, around 60 kilometres north of West Kelowna.

There have been long lines at some of the centres and officials are asking evacuees to be patient.

A public information line is also available at 250-469-8490 or 1-877-569-8490.

Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma says the wildfire service has "significant resources'' on the West Kelowna fire, but she urges everyone in the region to prepare in case they are ordered to leave.

West Kelowna's Brolund said he anticipated alerts related to the the McDougall Creek fire to become orders and for residents be ready to move.

"This is the real deal," he said about the danger posed by the fire.

WATCH | Timelapse of McDougall Creek wildfire captured by resident:

Wildfire smoke rises above West Kelowna

22 hours ago

Duration 0:11

Melissa Smyk captured a timelapse of smoke from the McDougall Creek fire rising above West Kelowna.

Hwy 1 closed, more evacuation orders

Cliff Chapman, director of operations for the B.C. Wildfire Service, says the cold front that began sweeping the southern half of the province Thursday is bringing in high, unpredictable winds and dry lightning that create the potential for new fires and growth on those they are trying to contain.

Of the 377 active fires in the province, 159 of them remain out of control, and more than a dozen of those are either highly visible or a threat to a community.

Around 3,400 firefighters are deployed across the province, with dozens from other jurisdictions such as Mexico and Costa Rica.

DriveBC said Thursday that wildfire activity has closed a stretch of Highway 1 in both directions between Hope and Lytton, the community 150 kilometres northeast of Vancouver that was almost completely destroyed by fire in 2021.

In the area, about 16 kilometres northwest of Boston Bar, the rapidly growing Kookipi Creek wildfire has prompted multiple evacuation orders and alerts for Blue Sky Country, Nahatlatch Provincial Park and the surrounding area.

Elsewhere:

  • The Lytton First Nation issued an evacuation order Thursday afternoon due to the Stein Mountain fire. The order covers the Nkaih Indian Reserve No. 10 and Lytton Indian Reserve 9A.
  • The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District issued an evacuation order for properties in Slim Creek, Tyaughton Lake and Gun Creek Road due to wildfires burning out of control in the area.
  • The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen issued an evacuation order for properties in Electoral Areas C, G, and I due to the Upper Park Rill Creek wildfire, which was discovered on Friday in the Kamloops Fire Centre.
  • There is an evacuation order for the District of Lake Country and an evacuation alert for properties in Lake Country where a local state of emergency has been declared.
  • The Columbia Shuswap Regional District issued an evacuation order for all properties from 2597 to 2900 Rawson Road and the Northern Reach of Tsutswecw Park in Electoral Area F due to the Lower East Adams Lake wildfire.
  • Cariboo Regional District and the Ulkatcho First Nation issued an evacuation order Thursday for the Eliguk Lake Area as well as IR #18 (Betty Creek), about 50 km north of Ulkatcho First Nation and Anahim Lake.

A list of all evacuation orders and alerts is posted online by Emergency Info B.C.


More stories on wildfires:


Around 100 kilometres south of Kelowna, the Crater Creek wildfire continues to burn over an area of 100 square kilometres.

It led to the evacuation of more than 100 people in the southern Interior community near the U.S. border. Nineteen properties remain on evacuation order due to the fire, and 189 are on evacuation alert.

'Keep us in your prayers'

Chief Keith Crow of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band said Friday the fire had destroyed at least one property in his community, and a further 17 other properties were under threat in a subdivision.

He reiterated his concern from earlier in the week that not enough resources are being sent to fight the fire there.

"My heart goes out to West Kelowna … but I have to speak up for my community," he said. "Please, everyone, keep us in your prayers."

Around 1,000 properties in the Kootenays are also on evacuation alert due to several fires burning near the communities of Panorama, Radium Hot Springs and Sparwood.

They include the Horsethief Creek wildfire burning about 10 kilometres west of Invermere, a fire of note that is currently almost 40 square kilometres.

The Columbia-Shuswap Regional District has also expanded evacuation alerts due to the Lower East Adams Lake wildfire northeast of Kamloops.


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.


Do you have a story to share?

If you've been affected by the B.C. wildfires and want to share your story, email cbcnewsvancouver@cbc.ca.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this article said evacuation orders were in place for the Ulkatcho First Nation. In fact, it was for residents of the Eliguk Lake Area north of the First Nation.
    Aug 18, 2023 11:52 AM PT

With files from The Canadian Press, Chad Pawson, Andrew Kurjata, Jon Azpiri and Jordan Tucker

*****
Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

Check Also

Woman who alleges sex assault by retired vice-admiral Edmundson not believable, his lawyer says

The evidence heard in an Ottawa courtroom from a woman who claims she was sexually …