Multiple new wildfire evacuation alerts for Vernon, Coldstream, Swan Lake, RDNO

Most of Vernon under alert

UPDATE 11:40 p.m.

With most of the City of Vernon already under evacuation alert, new alerts have been issued for parts of Coldstream and the North Okanagan Regional District due to the White Rock Lake wildfire.

The fire has now grown to 55,000 hectares.

The expanded alert areas include:

  • Electoral Area B east of Okanagan Lake - surrounding Swan Lake
  • Electoral Area C south of Spallumcheen, west of Forsberg Road (on Silver Star Road) to the southern boundary of Electoral Area C
  • District of Coldstream from the north boundary to the south boundary, the area west of Coldstream Valley Estates and Grey Road

Residents should prepare to evacuate and may receive limited notice due to changing conditions, should an evacuation be required.

Any property in close proximity to the map area below should be prepared and ready to evacuate, the RDNO advises.

Affected residents should designate a meeting area outside the evacuation area should an evacuation order be called while separated.

Pack essential items such as ID, medications, eyeglasses, valuable papers, immediate care needs for dependents and, if time and space permits, keepsakes for quick departure.

Prepare to move persons with disabilities, children or neighbours, if assistance is needed.

Prepare to take pets with you and move livestock to a safe area (if possible).

Arrange transportation for all household members. Fill the gas tanks of personal vehicles.

Arrange accommodation for all members of the residence, if possible.

UPDATE 10:50 p.m.

The majority of the City of Vernon has now been placed on evacuation alert.

New alert just issued late Friday night is for all of Vernon excluding:

  • Predator Ridge and Sparkling Hill neighbourhoods
  • Okanagan Landing South neighbourhoods (areas of Eastside Road, The Outback, Ellison Provincial Park Inkster, Delcliffe, Whitepoint, Smith Road, Peters Road, Kokanee/Sunset properties, Harbour Heights, Beverly Hills Estates)
  • Commonage Area, south of Bench Row Road

The City of Vernon says municipal fire crews will be strategically circulating along Tronson Road and stationed through Adventure Bay and Canadian Lakeview Estates throughout the night to guard for spot fires.

"The City of Vernon is asking that all residents maintain a heightened awareness of the evolving situation over the next 48 hours, watch for spot fires caused by embers—and everyone should be prepared in advance for a potential evacuation order," the city said.

UPDATE 10:10 p.m.

Pushed by high winds, the BC Wildfire Service says the White Rock Lake wildfire is exhibiting rank 4/5 behaviour, challenging suppression efforts.

Wildfire activity is ranked from one to six, with six being the highest.

“Structure protection personnel have a roving patrol set up along Westside Road, as well as in the Swan Lake area where personnel are prepared to defend from potential spot fires,” BCWS said in a 10 p.m. update.

“Sustained winds and aggressive fire behaviour is forecast through the evening.”

Provincial fire officials are working closely with local governments to evaluate the need for additional evacuation orders and alerts.

The evacuation zone on the Westside of Okanagan Lake now runs from La Casa all the way north, through the entirety of OKIB IR No. 1. Evacuation alerts are also in place for parts of Vernon and the entire communities of Spallumcheen and Armstrong.

UPDATE 9:40 p.m.

A new evacuation order has been issued issued Friday night by the Okanagan Indian Band, for all of IR No. 1.

The expanded evacuation order includes properties on both sides of the northern arm of Okanagan Lake and north along Highway 97. The order includes close to 200 additional properties.

Evacuees can register at the Schubert Centre at 3505-30th Avenue Vernon, BC. Those needing transportation can call the OKIB Emergency Operations Centre at 250-241-5809.

The new order comes shortly after the Regional District of Central Okanagan issued its own expanded evacuation order due to the White Rock Lake fire further south along Westside Road, which includes the Fintry area.

Meanwhile, the City of Vernon issued evacuation alerts earlier Friday afternoon for the area bordering OKIB's recent evacuation zone, including the neighbourhoods of Canadian Lake View Estates, Adventure Bay, Tronson Road, Rise, Turtle Mountain and Blue Jay.

Strong winds on the fire have grown the fire substantially in the northeast and southeast over the past 24 hours.

UPDATE 9 p.m.

The Central Okanagan Regional District has issued new evacuation orders along Westside Road.

The new evacuation zone includes La Casa Lakeside Resort and everything north. The order issued Friday night adds 975 properties to the evacuation list, adding to to orders issued earlier today at Ewings Landing and Killiney Beach. Fintry, Valley of the Sun and Shalal Road are included in the new alerts.

An interactive map of evacuation alerts in the RDCO is here.

“Residents that require in-person help with food, lodging and Emergency Support Services registration should visit the reception centre at 1480 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna.

The centre is open until 10 p.m. tonight and tomorrow from 12 – 8 p.m.

Meanwhile across the lake, RCMP in Vernon are now restricting access to Adventure Bay and Canadian Lakeview Estates to residents only.

“If you are not a resident, please stay away,” RCMP said.

BC Hydro is also reporting power is now out to a large area spanning from Shelter Cove Road all the way to the northern part of the OKB reserve.

UDPATE 7:50 p.m.

Strong winds are to blame for Friday's growth of the White Rock Lake wildfire, but more residents appear to be taking evacuation orders seriously on Westside Road.

"We're seeing strong winds that are pushing up into the northeast. We have aggressive fire behaviour, and it's more towards the Okanagan Indian Band. We are working up in Westshore and of course we can see it from there," says RDCO fire services manager, Ross Kotscherofski.

Kotscherofski said evacuations are going much better today than they were a few days ago.

"When I drive around there's definitely some people still in homes, but things are looking way better. Obviously we encourage people to leave their homes, and it's been said over and over again that we have to put firefighters at risk, and we have to stop firefighting operations if they stay in their homes,” says Kotscherofski.

Fintry resident Len George said he's ready to leave at a moment's notice if his evacuation alert changes to an order. “My wife and I packed everything, we've got the vehicles pointed out, we've got the horse trailers hooked up, ready to take the animals so both trucks and ourselves are ready to go,” said George. The couple is new to the area, and have never had to experience an evacuation before.

North Westside Fire Rescue crews will be out all night battling the blaze and protecting structures.

UPDATE: 7:40 p.m.

An additional evacuation alert covering a broad swath of Vernon, the entire communities of Spallumcheen and Armstrong have now also been placed on alert due to the aggressive White Rock Lake wildfire.

Both the Township of Spallumcheen and City of Armstrong issued the alert as of 7 p.m. on the advice of the BC Wildfire Service.

"Due to the aggressive behaviour of the White Rock Lake wildfire, the entire Township of Spallumcheen and City of Armstrong need to prepare for the possibility of an evacuation," the municipalities said in a press release.

Residents will be given as much advance notice as possible prior to evacuation; however they may receive limited notice due to changing conditions.

Meanwhile, the closure north of Vernon on Highway 97, previously between Salmon River Road and Monte Creek has been extended almost to the city limits of Vernon.

The highway is now closed at Pleasant Valley Road, DriveBC reports, meaning an 80-kilometre stretch is no longer open.

As well, residents as far away from the fire as Coldstream report huge chunks of ash falling, some almost palm sized.

UPDATE 6:30 p.m.

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District says it conducted a tactical evacuation in the Six Mile Creek area this evening due to the White Rock Lake wildfire.

Details on the order are here.

The Shuswap Emergency Program said Friday evacuation zones have now been fully closed by the BC Wildfire Service due to the threat of the fire.

The agency issued about 54 temporary access permits back into the evacuation zone to feed livestock and pick up pets, but those passes ended at 2 p.m.

“The winds have been stronger and more sustained than previously predicted. This evening, gusts upwards of 40 km/hr are expected. This will significantly impact fire growth and behaviour,” the regional district said.

UPDATE 5:20 p.m.

The BC Wildfire Service says crews are being challenged by aggressive fire behaviour and southwesterly winds, gusting upwards of 40 km/hr.

“Predominant fire growth this afternoon has been observed along the eastern perimeter, west of Westside Road,” BCWS said in a 5 p.m. update.

“Rotary-wing resources continue to work where feasible and structure protection personnel are prepared to defend at-risk neighbourhoods.”

“The public is urged to maintain heightened awareness of the evolving situation over the next 24-hours,” BCWS added.

The OKIB has also issued an evacuation alert for the remainder of OKIB IR#1, including the east side of Okanagan Lake. Details and a map can be found here.

UPDATE 4:30 p.m.

The City of Vernon has now issued evacuation alerts for the White Rock Lake wildfire due to the fear of an ember shower causing the blaze to jump Okanagan Lake.

Residents living in neighbourhoods across the lake from where the fire is burning above Westside Road are being told to prepare to leave on short notice.

The alerts are in place for the neighbourhoods of Canadian Lake View Estates, Adventure Bay, Tronson Road, Rise, Turtle Mountain and Blue Jay.

BCWS says the “increasingly aggressive” fire behaviour being seen this afternoon may result in ember showers and spot fires.

"Large fires like the White Rock Lake wildfire often create their own weather patterns. Sometimes with that comes an increase in debris being cast across a significant distance. Sometimes that debris can be large enough and hot enough to create an ember fire," said Vernon fire chief David Lind.

The Okanagan Indian Band issued an update Friday afternoon saying they expect the fire front to reach the Whiteman’s area this evening.

“Please pray for the winds to change direction,” OKIB said, adding no structures have been lost yet, but “that could change today.”

The First Nation urged residents to obey evacuation orders for their own safety. Structural protections teams are already set up and ready to protect the community.

“We want to reiterate how important it is to evacuate now. Flames could reach as high as 400 feet. This is not a defensible fire so please leave now.”

“Please do not underestimate this fire,” OKIB concluded.

UPDATE 4:14 p.m.

Gusting winds are causing challenges for firefighters battling the east flank of the White Rock Lake fire that is threatening homes near Westside Rd. north of Killiney Beach.

BC Wildfire Services Officer Hannah Street tells Castanet, "35 km/h gusts out of the west so that really is pushing the fire to the east and that's where we're being challenged."

Street says BCWS has helicopters working the fire but the west winds are pushing it towards Westside Rd.

Some residents on evacuation order have indicated to Castanet that they are not prepared to leave their homes, to which Street responded, "we are a helping profession and we're gonna help people get to safety if that is required, but we're not required to evacuate people who choose not to evacuate, that's not BCWS's responsibility."

Street says if people don't leave an evacuation area there's a good chance they will have no exit and no one will be able to get to you.

"We do have our structure protection personnel along with wildfire firefighters and they are quite effective in the wild and urban interface areas. We'll have to see what happens."

UDPATE 3:20 p.m.

Fire activity on the southeast flank of the White Rock Lake wildfire appears to be picking up considerably.

The fire is now putting up a massive plume of smoke that is blowing north towards Vernon. The increase in activity has taken place gradually over the past hour.

There has been a strong police presence in the Westside Road area north of Fintry, where evacuation orders were served earlier this morning.

ORIGINAL 11:15 a.m.

The Central Okanagan Regional District has issued new evacuation orders for the Killiney Beach including Ewings Landing areas due to the White Rock Lake wildfire.

The new order includes 608 properties along Westside Road from 8525 Ewings Landing Road (south end) to 9995 Westside Road (north end), up to the Sugarloaf Forest Service Road turn off. An interactive map is here. Other orders remain in place north of regional district boundaries on the OKIB reserve.

Residents in this extended evacuation area have until 1 p.m. this afternoon to return and gather belongings and all must leave the area by 1 p.m. They must leave the area travelling south on Westside Road as there is no access to the north. An Emergency Support Services (ESS) reception centre for evacuated residents is located at 1480 Sutherland Ave in Kelowna.

Meanwhile, residents in the Beau Park Road area, northeast of Parker Cove, who were ordered to evacuate days ago are feeling pessimistic and abandoned by fire officials.

"We have not seen one helicopter, water bomber or fireman in the area to protect our properties," said resident Mike Keough.

Keough says he and his wife have left their property and belongings and are in Lavington, "I'm pissed."

He said residents on the west side of Okanagan Lake are facing losing their homes to the aggressive and fast-moving fire that is now just a few kilometres away from Westside Rd.

"I fully expect to lose everything we have up there," Keough says.

Responding to the concern, BC Wildfire Services information officer Hannah Street told Castanet, "we are in triage mode."

Firefighters were trying to save property and lives in the Monte Creek area overnight, but Street said wildfire personnel are monitoring the situation closely and are ready to respond.

Keough says some of the residents in the area, including a contract firefighter, are staying put to try and protect their homes.

"They have to do it on their own. They're setting up sprinklers... The fire is right there."

Street emphasized how important it is for those under evacuation orders to leave the area, "as you can see from the Monte Creek fire, our firefighters were put in danger trying to rescue individuals who remained behind. We won't drop our firefighters into situations where there is no exit."

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