Injured firefighter airlifted; evacuees could be going home within days

Injured firefighter doing OK

UPDATE: 3 p.m.

A BC Wildfire Service firefighter was not seriously injured after taking a tumble while working on the White Rock Lake fire.

Fire information officer Hanna Swift said the unidentified firefighter did not sustain any serious injuries after tumbling down a hillside.

“They were working on a steep section of the control line and they did lose their footing and tumbled down the hill,” said Swift. “There were no substantial injuries sustained.”

Swift said the firefighter received immediate medical aid at the scene of the accident.

The firefighter was flown from the fire scene to the Vernon airport where a ground ambulance transported the person to Kelowna General Hospital as a precautionary measure.

UPDATE: 12:25 p.m.

BC Emergency Health Services confirms a firefighter took an apparent 100-foot fall today while working on the White Rock Lake wildfire.

"BCEHS received a call at 10:51 a.m. this morning for a firefighter who reportedly fell 100 feet," says spokesperson Shannon Miller.

"The wildfire service airlifted the patient to the Vernon Airport on Tronson Road, where they were met by two ambulance paramedic crews.

"The advanced life support paramedics are now transporting the patient in serious condition to hospital in Kelowna."

UPDATE 12:11 p.m.

A firefighter has been taken to hospital after being injured on the White Rock Lake fire.

BC Wildfire Service fire information officer Hanna Swift says the extent of the firefighter's injuries is not known at this time.

The firefighter was airlifted by helicopter to Vernon Airport and taken by ambulance to hospital.

There are unconfirmed reports the firefighter was injured in a fall.

Swift said the area where the firefighter was injured “is mostly in mop up and patrol, so it's pretty routine firefighting tactics.”

Castanet will have more information as soon as it becomes available.

Meanwhile, the wildfire service says evacuated residents on the Westside may soon be going home.

Swift says evacuees could be returning within five to 10 days, depending on weather and forecast conditions.

Drought conditions in the area have caused the fire to burn deep, but Swift says they are finding fewer hotspots each day.

ORIGINAL 9:45 a.m.

BC Hydro crews are making good progress along Westside Road to remove danger trees and restore power lines damaged by the White Rock Lake wildfire.

There was a substantial damage to power lines during the wind event of Aug. 15, the BC Wildfire Service says.

Restoring damages is a crucial step to ensure safety for residents before they return home.

The fire has now burned an estimated at 82,000 hectares and remains out of control.

Crews continue to extinguish deep-burning fuels that are persistent across the east flank of the fire above Okanagan Lake due to severe drought conditions.

“The Drought Code in this area of the fire is resulting in incredibly deep burning forest fuels making it difficult to bring this area to full extinguishment,” says Hanna Swift, BC Wildfire Information Officer.

A 20-person unit crew remained on-site through the night to set up a hose-lay along this control line to begin mop-up. An infrared scan will be completed Thursday which will help crews identify hot spots.

Crews are making good progress on mop-up and patrol activities along the south, west and northern flanks of the fire.

On Wednesday, planned ignitions were used to secure the fire perimeter north of Terrace Mountain, west towards Shorts Creek along the southeast flank.

The aerial ignitions removed approximately 600 hectares of fuel between the fire's edge and the pre-established control line.

Winds today are not favourable for a 3,000-hectare ignition operation planned for the northeast flank.

A 350-hectare planned ignition operation on Tuesday successfully brought the fire's edge down to workable ground on Okanagan Indian Band land.

Planned ignition operations are used to achieve containment in areas where the fire perimeter is inoperable and unsafe for ground crews and heavy equipment to work.

The larger ignition is expected to happen this weekend.

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