Salmon Arm  

CSRD, TNRD, Little Shuswap band report just under 200 homes, structures destroyed in Bush Creek blaze

Numerous structures lost

UPDATE: 3:22 p.m.

Local government and First Nations officials have released preliminary estimates of the damage done by the Bush Creek East wildfire, saying just under 200 structures have been lost.

The 41,806-hectare wildfire has impacted areas west and east of Adams Lake, north of Shuswap Lake and Little Shuswap Lake and south of Highway 1, between Chase and Sorrento.

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District said 131 structures in its jurisdiction have been lost, with 37 additional structures partially damaged by the fire.

Derek Sutherland, CSRD Emergency Operations Centre director, said in a video update Friday afternoon that these are preliminary numbers and still subject to change. He said the heavy urban search and rescue unit conducting damage assessments hasn't been able to access some areas impacted by the wildfire.

“There are areas that Canada Task Force One wasn’t able to get to because of danger trees and dangerous situations and firefighting efforts in the area,” Sutherland said.

“We’re not sure what’s exactly happening in those areas, but these are the numbers we have at the moment.”

Sutherland said the CSRD is developing an online dashboard tool so members of the public can see their properties online. He said this should be up and running later on Friday afternoon.

Skwlax te Secwepemculecw Kukpi7 James Tomma says the band (formerly known as the Little Shuswap Lake Band) has lost 31 homes to the Bush Creek East wildfire.

He told reporters on Friday his own home was one of the structures lost.

“Our band now understands what we lost, but what we have left, some of our major infrastructure is still there. We still have our band office, we still have our fire hall, some of the community living buildings are still there, town houses, our wellness centre is still there,” Tomma said.

“The living units that are connected to the wellness centre are still there. One of our major communities, Veterans Lane, is 90 per cent intact.

“We lost a couple of community housing there, but for the most part, the band members homes are still there. But we lost a lot. You know, 31 houses I think was the latest count, it could climb.”

According to Skwlax te Secwepemculecw representatives, the Quaaout Lodge still stands, as well as the golf course — although trees on the golf course have burned.

The gas station is been lost, along with some band offices and four rental suites which were connected.

Tomma said they are working to arrange a tour of the Skwlax te Secwepemculecw reserve area for band members next week.

He said all band members are accounted for, and no lives were lost to the fire.

Tracy Hughes, CSRD EOC information officer, also said there have been no lives lost as a result of the wildfire.

“We've heard over the past days how intense this fire behaviour was. So we're all very grateful that no lives appear to have been lost, and that public safety has been the paramount concern here,” Hughes said.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District announced Thursday there were 11 properties in its jurisdiction damaged by the Bush Creek blaze. Structures on nine properties were destroyed, while structures on two properties suffered damage.

UPDATE: 10:32 a.m.

The Trans-Canada Highway between Chase and Sorrento has reopened to traffic one week after the Bush Creek East wildfire took its wind-fuelled run south and forced the highway closure.

DriveBC said traffic is able to get through in both directions as of 10 a.m. Friday.

“Highway 1 is reopened. There is wildfire activity between Shuswap Avenue and Blind Bay Road for 19 kilometres,” said a statement from DriveBC.

“No stopping will be permitted in this wildfire area.”

Drivers are also advised to watch for wildlife in the area.

ORIGINAL: 5:30 a.m.

Despite positive news and help from Mother Nature over the past several days, the BC Wildfire Service says fire behaviour on the Bush Creek East blaze is expected to increase as temperatures rise.

The wildfire is impacting areas west and east of Adams Lake, north of Shuswap Lake and Little Shuswap Lake and south of Highway 1, between Chase and Sorrento. Thousands of properties are under evacuation order due to the fire.

BCWS said along with warmer weather, active fire will be more visible, and additional smoke will be produced.

Temperatures are expected to increase Friday as a high ridge settles over the province, bringing light winds.

The BC Wildfire Service says their operations will remain relatively consistent for the next few days.

Crews continue work in Loakin Valley, where a guard has been established from the Little Shuswap to the valley.

"Going forward, crews will remove unburnt fuel between the fire perimeter and mop up areas where the fire has passed," said an update to the BCWS page.

Crews are working above the cabins along Adams Lake, mopping up and patrolling.

In Turtle Valley, a guard has been established from Highway 1 to Turtle Valley Road and crews are performing direct attack on the fire in this area.

Heavy equipment continues building a guard in Turtle Valley and Sorrento, tying into an old fire scar.

In a video update posted to the BCWS website on Thursday morning, Forrest Tower, fire information officer, said satellites haven't been detecting a lot of heat from the fire due to rainfall. While the fire hasn't been challenging containment lines, some areas are still quite active where there was less rainfall.

he said when the fire made its destructive, wind-fuelled run southwards, it had so much intensity it is now burning "deep into the ground."

"That means that our wildland firefighters have a lot of work ahead of them in terms of ensuring that the further spread of this fire is really limited," he said.

He said BCWS has been able to obtain a more accurate perimeter map of the Bush Creek blaze, now estimated to be about 43,000 hectares in size.

BCWS says the fire hasn’t seen any major growth in the past 48 to 72 hours due to rainfall, low temperatures and light winds.

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