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Crews fighting fire in Westwold area expect challenging conditions

Blue skies present challenge

UPDATE: 2:13 p.m.

Clear blue skies over parts of the Interior may be a welcome change for many residents but, according to the BC Wildfire Service, fire crews can be challenged by this type of weather.

Mike McCulley, fire information officer assigned to the Okanagan complex — a grouping of fires including White Rock Lake, Brenda Creek and Thomas Creek fires — said blue skies are “not the best news for us.”

“When it’s clear like this, it means that the winds are picking up and the smoke is moving away. It also makes the ground temperatures hotter,” McCulley told Castanet.

“The smoke sometimes can cool the ground a little and actually reduce the fire activity.”

McCulley said fire crews are expecting winds to increase over the next few days.

“On all of our fires we are going to be challenged. We’re going to have some challenges on our guard lines for sure,” McCulley said.

For the White Rock Lake wildfire, McCulley said the weather conditions are “not at all favourable” for firefighters.

He said growth is expected to the northwest over Wednesday.

McCulley said the fire has a broken front, as it burns through canyons and valleys, which is also making the fire size difficult to track.

The White Rock Lake fire is estimated at 7,401 hectares in size as of Wednesday morning.

There are 19 BC Wildfire Service firefighters assigned to fight the fire, supported by 11 personnel from local fire departments and the RCMP, and 22 support staff.

McCulley said more crews are expected to arrive in the coming days.

He said they also want to thank the local community affected by the White Rock Lake fire for their cooperation and their expertise.

He said they have been working with locals to gain a better understanding of the terrain and the winds in the area.

“They know that area better than we do, so our operational folks will talk to them and try to get some understanding of what can we expect, what does it do when the weather’s like this,” McCulley said.

He said they take this knowledge and build it into a risk projection, which helps inform local governments to make evacuation orders and alerts.

“It also helps us to decide how are we going to fight this fire, what tactics and strategies are we going to use to meet our objectives,” McCulley said.


ORIGINAL STORY: 9:45 a.m.

The White Rock Lake wildfire has grown, now estimated at 7,401 hectares in size, according to the BC Wildfire Service.

The blaze was estimated to be 4,352 hectares on Tuesday.

The BC Wildfire Service said the northeast of the fire saw “significant growth,” and the southeast flank was also active late in the day.

On Wednesday morning, crews have noted increasing winds from the northwest.

“BC Wildfire Service personnel continue to work with industry partners on site to establish and reinforce guard lines, and to protect critical infrastructure,” the wildfire service said.

Crews are working with a structural protection specialist, who is assessing and prioritizing critical infrastructure and properties.

BC Wildfire Service said they will continue to look for opportunities to bring in air tanker support, which may be used to bring retardant to the fire if conditions are favourable.

“The use of air tankers has been hampered by high winds, heavy smoke and steep terrain,” the wildfire service said.

There are 19 BC Wildfire Service firefighters, 11 personnel from local fire departments and RCMP, and 22 support staff assigned to the fire.

Crews have access to 22 pieces of heavy equipment and one structural protection unit, and two helicopters are assisting from the sky.

On Tuesday night, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District issued an evacuation order for 32 properties near Westwold. An evacuation alert was also issued 165 more residences northeast of the fire, including properties in the Monte Lake area.



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