White Rock Lake wildfire expected to continue growth as thunderstorms in forecast

New evac alerts issued

UPDATE 2:45 p.m.

The Central Okanagan Regional District has issued its first evacuation alerts related to the White Rock Lake wildfire.

The alert impacts a handful of properties directly north of Sugarloaf Mountain. A full list of the impacted addresses is here.

“Residents in the area are advised to be ready to leave their home at a moment’s notice. They should be prepared to be away from their home for an extended period of time, make arrangements for pets and pack essential items such as medicines and important documents,” CORD said.

The alerts are in addition to the existing alerts and orders already in place from the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, Regional District of North Okanagan, Columbia Shuswap Regional District and Okanagan Indian Band.

Details of those previous evacuation notices can be found here.

UPDATE: 12:15 p.m.

The massive White Rock Lake wildfire burning between Westwold and Merritt is now listed as having burned an estimated 20,891 hectares as the threat of lightning looms.

In a midday Friday update, the BC Wildfire Service says conditions are extremely smoky, which is hampering the ability for aircraft to fly and challenging suppression efforts.

"Given the amount of fuel loading and forecast weather conditions, elevated fire behaviour is expected to continue. Fire growth is expected to the east and northeast. To protect the safety of the public and first responders, the BC Wildfire Service will continue to evaluate the need for further evacuation order and alert recommendations," the update states.

Subtropical moisture moving into the region may bring thunderstorms, strong winds and dry lightning, the wildfire service advises.

On the northwest flank of the fire, crews will be patrolling a machine guard that was built next to the power line.

Progress is being made on constructing a machine guard to connect to Monte-Pratt Road. Crews will support the construction of this guard with hose lay and a water tender.

On the southwest flank, crews will continue to work eastward to secure the perimeter. Mop up around the Cress Creek area on the south flank of the fire will be ongoing over the weekend.

If conditions remain favourable, additional planned ignitions will occur along the southeast flank to fully bring the fire down to the Salmon River Forest Service Road.

Northeast of the fire perimeter, crews are working along a stretch of machine guard to contain any fire that comes down the ridge line. Crews will be using low intensity hand ignitions to remove any remaining combustible fuels.

Structural protection personnel will continue to assess and prioritize critical infrastructure and properties, working from Monte Lake towards the Falkland corridor via Highway 97.

ORIGINAL: 4 a.m.

After days of heavy smoke prevented them from doing so, the BC Wildfire Service appears to have gotten a track on the massive White Rock Lake wildfire burning between Kamloops and Vernon.

A new perimeter map published late Thursday night places the wildfire at just over 20,000 hectares, which is what the fire was previously estimated at.

The northernmost front of the fire is within five kilometres of Highway 97 in the Douglas Lake Road area.

In recent days crews have been using controlled burns to bring the fire perimeter closer to Salmon River Forest Service Road, where crews will be able to work. If conditions remain favourable over the coming days, additional planned ignitions will occur.

Fire officials have said they expect the fire to continue to grow east and northeast.

Crews are also preparing for the possibility of subtropical moisture that may bring dry lighting to the region.

There are 117 firefighters, including 100 from Quebec, eight helicopters, 10 danger tree fallers, 38 pieces of heavy equipment and 23 support staff assigned to the fire.

Several evacuation alerts and orders remain in place in the area from three regional districts and the Okanagan Indian Band.

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