UPDATE 2:30 a.m.
Central Okanagan Emergency Operations has confirmed structural losses due to the McDougall Creek wildfire.
“Firefighters continue to work diligently overnight on interface areas of the McDougall Creek to protect property and infrastructure in West Kelowna. The fire remains very active and unpredictable,” the regional district said in a 2:25 a.m. update.
“Overnight, officials have confirmed some structural loss. A full assessment of the areas affected will be undertaken in the morning.”
Emergency officials are expected to provide a detailed update at 10 a.m.
Currently 2,462 properties are under evacuation order and 4,801 properties are under evacuation alert.
All reception centres in West Kelowna, Kelowna and Vernon have closed for the evening. An overnight shelter centre has opened at Prospera Place, 1223 Water Street, Kelowna for evacuees requiring a place to go overnight. Small pets caged or leashed are permitted.
UPDATE 12:25 a.m.
Significant structural losses have been confirmed on the west side of Okanagan Lake due to the McDougall Creek wildfire.
Video posted by prominent storm and wildfire chaser Kyle Brittain just before midnight shows homes fully engulfed.
UPDATE 10:40 p.m.
The McDougall Creek wildfire has knocked out power for close to 4,000 West Kelowna homes Thursday night.
According to BC Hydro, power has been knocked out for homes along Westside Road, north of Highway 97, and down through the Lakeview Heights area.
The rapidly growing wildfire has forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 properties Thursday, as it grows northeast along Okanagan Lake. Westside Road was closed to traffic earlier Thursday evening.
UPDATE 9:55 p.m.
The City of Vernon, which is taking in evacuees from Westside Road impacted by the McDougall Creek wildire, says many of those being impacted by the fire are tourists.
“As evacuees are leaving the area, it’s important to know the Province of B.C. Emergency Support Services (ESS) referral program is only available for those who have been evacuated from their permanent residence,” said the City of Vernon in a statement late Thursday night.
“If you are a visitor to the area who has been evacuated, you are encouraged to travel home if possible. Otherwise, you will need to make your own arrangements for alternative accommodations.”
UPDATE 9:25 p.m.
Central Okanagan Emergency Operations has ordered the evacuation of all remaining properties of the Rose Valley neighbourhood north of Stevens Road and West Kelowna Estates.
Residents on evacuation order must leave the area immediately. An interactive map of evacuation zones is here. Evacuees should register online or attend the Information Centre at Royal LePage Place, 2760 Cameron Road in West Kelowna.
As well, the Evacuation Alert area has been expanded to include the following properties on Westbank First Nation IR 10 lands:
- Lindley Dr
- Waters Edge Lane
- Harbour Green Rd
- Lake Breeze Rd
- Crest Ridge Lane
- Marina Way
- Beach View Lane
- Lake Vista Rd
- Viewpoint Dr
- Viewpoint Crt
- Harbour View Blvd
- Old Ferry Wharf Rd
- Ariva Dr
- Nancee Way Crt
- Theresa Pl
- Gerald Pl
- Tees Pl
- Spland Rd
- Katherine Rd
- Ha’ustkt’ Pl
UPDATE 9 p.m.
Central Okanagan Emergency Operations has issued new evacuation orders for all properties on Westside Road from Traders Cover to Nahun.
The evacuation alert zone has also expanded north to Killiney Beach.
Westside Road evacuees are being asked to evacuate northward on Westside Road towards Vernon where the city has opened an Emergency Support Services (ESS) reception centre at Kal Tire Place (3445 43rd Avenue, Vernon, BC).
An interactive map of evacuation zones is here.
“Due to unpredictable fire behaviour, it is critical that all residents evacuate for their safety and the safety of first responders in the area,” said the regional district.
Recently added properties under evacuation order include all properties accessed off Westside Rd North of Traders Cove to Nahun, including:
- Bancroft Rd
- Banff Rd
- Blair Rd
- Bolton Rd
- Browse Rd
- Deighton Rd
- Denison Rd
- Jenny Creek Rd
- Shelter Cove
- Westside Pl
- All properties within Okanagan Lake Resort
All evacuees should register online.
UPDATE 8:45 p.m.
Westside Road has been closed in both directions due to the wildfire.
The fire is moving down the hill towards the Raymer Bay and Bear Creek areas.
All evacuation orders and alerts remain in place.
UPDATE 8:05 p.m.
As darkness falls and air support is pulled off the massive McDougall Creek wildfire burning above West Kelowna, West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund says the fire will burn largely out of control through the night.
During a press conference Thursday night, Brolund said he expects the fire, recently estimated at 1,100 hectares in size, will be “much larger in the morning.”
With close to 1,000 homes already under evacuation order, he said there would likely be additional evacuation orders through the night.
Brolund said all the predictions over the past 24 hours from fire officials have come true, with strong winds whipping through the fire this afternoon, causing extreme fire behaviour and rapid growth.
“Tonight's going to be a difficult night, our people our out there working hard and we're not giving up, but it's going to be a difficult night for the community,” Brolund said.
“We have close to 2,500 people who've I asked to leave their homes ... it will be difficult for them.”
As of 7:30 p.m., Brolund said no structures have been impacted by the fire, and no firefighters have been injured. Key infrastructure remains protected by sprinklers, including the Rose Valley dam, fire hall, Rose Valley Elementary and the new, under-construction water treatment plant.
But Brolund said the fire is now in the backyards of some of the more remote rural properties in the Bartley Road and Rose Valley areas.
Firefighters have faced serious challenges throughout the day, and crews have had to retreat from their posts on multiple occasions for their own safety, as the fire exhibited Rank 5 behaviour at times.
“Places could not be found in order to anchor and fight this fire,” he said.
But while ground crews struggled, air tankers and helicopters hit the fire from above.
Brolund noted in addition to the rapid spread of the main head of the fire, the strong winds have been blowing embers ahead of the fire line – what's called “spotting.”
“There could potentially be embers falling as well and that's where we grow very concerned,” Brolund said. “Our fire crews will be out tonight patrolling neighbourhoods in order to address those issues as they happen.”
The strong winds have been blowing the fire towards the northeast, towards the Bear Creek, Traders Cove and Westside Road area. Brolund said the winds are expected to continue through the night, with a switch in wind direction forecast to come around dawn.
Brolund warned the public that the fire will be “dramatic” as night falls, and massive flames will be visible. He noted that because of this, the fire may appear to be closer than it actually is.
While Friday is forecast to be cooler, the strong winds are expected to last through the afternoon.
UPDATE 7:10 p.m.
Central Okanagan Emergency Operations has issued additional evacuation orders due to the McDougall Creek wildfire.
All properties in Sailview Bay, Raymer Bay, Bear Creek Provincial Park and Traders Cove are now under evacuation order. A full map of evacuation zones is here.
Recently added properties under evacuation order include:
All properties along Westside Rd from Bear Creek Forest Service Road South to Westbank First Nation IR#10, including:
- 1 - 386 Westside Rd
- Traders Cove Rd
- Siemens Rd
- Edith Crt
- Heldon Crt
- Sailview Bay
Residents on evacuation order must leave the area immediately.
A live update from emergency officials has been delayed to 7:15 p.m.
UDPATE 6:40 p.m.
Numerous firefighting aircraft are attacking the McDougall Creek wildfire, attempting to slow its march east.
The blaze appears to have crested the the McDougall Rim—the ridge west of Rose Valley Reservoir—in some areas.
Emergency officials are holding a media briefing at 7 p.m. that Castanet will cover live.
UPDATE 6:05 p.m.
The BC Wildfire Service has updated the size estimate of the McDougall Creek wildfire to 1,100 hectares.
The agency did not release any additional details. The fire was estimated at 64 hectares this morning.
UPDATE 5:35 p.m.
Central Okanagan Emergency Operations has issued formal evacuation orders to 143 more properties in the Bartley Road area and 620 properties in the Rose Valley neighbourhood.
“Tactical evacuation is already underway,” said the regional district.
An interactive map of evacuation zones is here.
Residents on evacuation order must leave the area immediately.
“To ensure an orderly evacuation of these areas, please follow directions from emergency personnel. Public safety and the protection of critical infrastructure are the primary concerns,” said the regional district.
Evacuees should register online or attend the Information Centre at Royal LePage Place, 2760 Cameron Road in West Kelowna.
Central Okanagan Emergency Operations says BC Wildfire will provide an update mid-morning Friday. Additional information will be shared in this story as it is known.
Recently added properties under evacuation order include all properties on Bartley Road north of Shannon Lake Road including:
- Lenz Road
- 1620 Stevens Road
- 1830 Shannon Lake Road
All of the Rose Valley subdivision was also recently added to the Evacuation Order area including:
- Roseridge Crt
- Rosewood Dr
- Rosealee Lane
- Jok Mar Crt
- Rosewood Crt
- Rosemary Crt
- Roseabby Dr
- Rosefield Dr
- Rosealee Crt
- Rose Meadow Dr
- Rose Hill Pl
- Rose Anne Crt
- Rose Tree Rd
Areas north of Westlake Rd and Parkinson Rd were also recently added to the evacuation order area including:
- Pettman Rd
- Bowes Rd
- Blackwood Dr
- Klein Rd
- Guest Rd
- Valois Crt
- McPhail Crt
All other properties on evacuation alert and order remain in place.
UPDATE 4:55 p.m.
New evacuation orders have been issued for the Bartley and Lenz Road areas of West Kelowna.
RCMP are going door to door telling residents to leave.
Central Okanagan Emergency Operations has updated its evacuation map here to include the new evacuation zone.
The Emergency Operations Centre says some tactical evacuations are also starting in the Rose Valley neighbourhood.
The EOC says a full announcement and news release is imminent.
UPDATE 3:45 p.m.
People ordered to leave their homes as a result of the McDougall Creek wildfire are being asked to try and find accommodations with family and friends.
According to the Emergency Operations Centre, hotels and motels in the area are busy for the summer. While some hotels may have space for evacuees, people who have friends and family in the area are asked to seek those avenues first.
At the present time, 68 properties have been placed on evacuation order. Those addresses are available on the initial story below.
EOC officials say they are looking into group options including utilizing the assistance of the Central Okanagan School District.
SD 23 Supt. Kevin Kaardal says the school district has been working with the EOC to set up an emergency lodging site.
The school district has supported the EOC during several previous evacuation events.
West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund says further evacuations are possible as winds pick up across the region.
The 300-hectare fire was last estimated at two to four kilometres from homes.
UPDATE: 3:15 p.m.
The wind is picking up in the Okanagan Valley.
By 2 p.m. it was already gusting to 40 km/h in Penticton and making its way north towards West Kelowna and the McDougall Creek fire.
“The ridgetops are starting to show some signs as well of wind picking up. That’s all going to gradually, through the late afternoon, evening hours we’re going to be seeing gusts generally–the public might see 20 to 40 km/h but we’re looking at the ridge tips probably around 50-60 km/h from the west/southwest,” said Environment Canada meteorologist Matt Loney.
Even more worrisome, is the expected shift in the wind direction forecast for tomorrow that could push the fire towards the city.
“The wind will die down a little bit late this evening, but then tomorrow the winds are going to be coming more out of the northwest. The shift will be subtle. The frontal passage will be more subtle, but then it will pick up again in the afternoon, said Loney, who notes that gusts could hit 40-50 km/h on ridge tops Friday.
On top of that, there’s still a 30 per cent risk of thunderstorms, possibly bringing dry lightning.
“So far, the frontal path is further north. We haven’t seen much, if any lightning, so far. Fingers crossed that that continues but we do have a risk as this thing slides further down,” although he says the chance of lightning is more on track for the Columbia and Kootenays, rather than the Okanagan.
“It kind of falls away as it gets further west but, by no means, is the chance zero.”
One bit of positive news is that cooler temperatures are on the way. Unfortunately, the frontal system moving in won’t be packing much moisture. Loney says Environment Canada is not expecting any widespread rainfall in the Okanagan.
UPDATE 1:40 p.m.
Evacuation orders have now been issued for 68 properties as a result of the McDougall Creek wildfire.
The properties affected by the order put in place by the Emergency Operations Centre include properties accessed off of Bear Creek Road to the north of Parkinson Road but not including Parkinson Road itself.
- Dougmac Road
- Petterson Road
- Rose Valley Road
- 1045 Bear Creek Road
- 2740 Smith Creek Road
- 2850 Dixie Road
- 1075 Bear Creek Road
- 495 Bear Creek Road
- 525 Bear Creek Road
- 551 Bear Creek Road
- 573 Bear Creek Road
- 611 Bear Creek Road
- 674 Bear Creek Road
- 724 Bear Creek Road
- 779 Bear Creek Road
- 875 Bear Creek Road
- 944 Bear Creek Road
The evacuation alert imposed Wednesday evening has also been expanded to include areas north of Traders Cove up to, and including Caesars Landing.
More than 5,700 properties are now on evacuation alert. Click here for a map of the area affected.
Bear Creek Provincial Park also remains under an evacuation alert. Campers are advised to be ready to leave the area. Recreation areas within West Kelowna and the Central Okanagan West Electoral Area are under an evacuation order.
Evacuees should register online or attend the information centre at Royal LePage Place on Cameron Road in West Kelowna.
A local state of emergency has also been issued for the City of West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation and the west electoral area.
UPDATE 12:55 p.m.
West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund expects the growing McDougall Creek wildfire to force the evacuation of homes in the area later today.
Following a flight over the large wildfire Thursday afternoon, Brolund said the fire poses a risk to the community, and he expects some of the evacuation alerts to turn to evacuation orders at some point today.
“I expect today that we will see evacuation orders, not for the entire alert area but for portions of it, the portions that we deem most at risk,” Brolund said.
Late Wednesday evening, 4,800 homes were placed on evacuation alert, impacting about 10,000 people. Brolund said there are a number of rural properties and cabins north of the many subdivisions in the area that could face evacuation orders first.
He was unable to say when evacuation orders may go in effect, saying it depends on the ferocity of the winds.
Brolund said the now 300-hectare fire has been growing away from the community, but a switch in wind direction expected later today could cause it to move towards homes.
Currently, he said the fire is about two to four kilometres away from homes. He noted that sprinklers and other structure protection apparatus could be put in place once homes are evacuated from areas.
“The conditions today, this morning, are very challenging already and we expect the winds will increase, which will increase the size of the fire," Brolund said, adding that his concern is "very high."
“It has the potential to be a very big fire burning right on our doorstep and it likely will be by the end of the day.”
Earlier today, BC Wildfire Service Director Cliff Chapman said the McDougall Creek fire was showing extreme fire behaviour early Thursday morning.
“We are seeing extreme fire behaviour on that fire, as of 7 o'clock this morning,” he said. “It just indicates the condition the forests are in right now, how dry it is up there. We rarely see hat type of fire behaviour pre-breakfast time in B.C., and we're seeing it today and we're going see it continue through today.”
Air tankers are currently hitting the large fire, but Chapman said their suppression efforts would “be tested.”
UPDATE 11 a.m.
The McDougall Creek Wildfire burning above Rose Valley has now grown to 300 hectares in size.
Kamloops fire information officer Taylor Wallace says heavy smoke and poor visibility in the area Wednesday did not allow aircraft to get an accurate reading on the size of the fire. The size is up from 64 hectares this morning.
BC Wildfire says the fire remains approximately 10 kilometres from West Kelowna.
According to Wallace, 21 ground personnel at the fire are working mainly along the northwest flank of the fire where they are seeing Rank 3 fire activity which is a moderately vigorous ground fire.
Three helicopters and air tankers are working from above.
West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund is touring the fire by helicopter. Castanet will speak with Brolund at noon.
UPDATE 10 a.m.
According to the latest information from the BC Wildfire Service, the McDougall Creek wildfire remains mapped at 64 hectares in size.
The fire, which was initially spotted late Monday afternoon remains about 10 kilometres northwest of West Kelowna above Rose Valley.
Visibility has remained a challenge due to smoke in the area. Yesterday, the fire was displaying Rank 3 behaviour with pockets of Rank 4, meaning a moderate to highly vigorous surface fire.
Ground crews and air support are again hitting the fire Thursday. Both BCWS and West Kelowna fire crews are working the fire.
Evacuation alerts put in place Wednesday evening for 4,800 properties remains in effect until further notice.
UPDATE 9:42 a.m.
West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund wants to remind everyone in West Kelowna who is on evacuation alert to be prepared to leave at a moment's notice.
"It's definitely a pretty dynamic situation," he told Castanet Thursday morning.
"We are really looking at challenging weather conditions for the next 24 hours. We're watching the winds very closely. And we're doing everything we can to be prepared."
He says firefighters will be out in the neighbourhoods today preparing the community.
"There are many different agencies involved at this point, the wildfire service, the RCMP, our public works, just to name a few planning and executing those plans to get our community ready."
"Should that fire come to town — it is likely that this fire will grow exponentially in the next 12 to 24 hours and we want people to understand, not to panic, but to take the time to get ready," Brolund said.
Brolund advises people on evacuation alert to use the time to prepare and visit the BC FireSmart website for a list of last-minute things to do in the event of a full evacuation alert being issued.
He says if the evacuation alerts turn into orders, the public should pay attention to emergency notices and information.
"Because it's likely that it won't be all at once and people will have to pay close attention. If they're asked to leave, we need them to leave."
Brolund said homeowners in interface areas can also be doing last second things around the home to make their properties more resilient to fire. FireSmart tips are here.
The provincial government is holding a wildfire news conference at 11 a.m.
UPDATE 9 a.m.
The Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre will be holding a briefing session Thursday morning at 10 a.m. where decision makers including the BC Wildfire Service, West Kelowna Fire and BC Hydro will discuss plans for more than 10,000 residents who have been placed on evacuation alert overnight,
"It is a bit of a weather-driven (event) and it depends on what the winds do, so we're just we're planning," said Central Okanagan Emergency Operations spokesperson Keri O'Rourke.
"We've got a great team together for advanced planning, they're working hard coordinating with all agencies, these are the people that you want in the room when something like that is happening."
O'Rourke says they will have more info to share after the 10 a.m. meeting.
Despite this only being an evacuation alert CORD, is also advising those who are in the evacuation alert areas to register early in the event that an evacuation order is issued. An interactive map of the evacuation alert area impacting 4,800 properties is here.
Environment Canada is forecasting strong winds this afternoon with the wind becoming southwest 20 km/h and gusting to 50 near noon. Those winds are expected to continue throughout the evening and into the night before calming down near midnight.
The McDougall Creek fire is still estimated at 64 hectares.
ORIGINAL 5:57 a.m.
It was a nervous night for 4,800 property owners of West Kelowna after they were placed on evacuation alert Wednesday as the McDougall Creek wildfire crept closer to the community.
As of Wednesday evening the fire had grown to 64 hectares in size and sent a huge smoke plume towering over the Central Okanagan.
The alert comes as high winds are forecast today and Friday that could worsen fire conditions.
Portions of Westbank First Nation and Central Okanagan West Electoral Area are also under alert.
Residents should be prepared to leave on short notice.
"Public safety and the protection of critical infrastructure are the primary concerns," the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre said Wednesday night.
Bear Creek Provincial Park is also under an evacuation alert, and campers have been advised that “the area is an active wildfire zone and be ready to leave the area.”
The fire doubled in size in just a few hours Wednesday.
It's burning about 10 kilometres northwest of West Kelowna and remains out of control.
It rained ash and burned twigs down on many homes through the evening.
Helicopters were bucketing water from the Rose Valley Reservoir.
Areas under alert include:
- Bartley Road
- Bear Creek Provincial Park
- Pine Point
- Raymer Bay
- Rose Valley
- Sailview Bay
- Shannon Woods
- Smith Creek
- Tallus Ridge
- Traders Cove
- West Kelowna Estates
- West Kelowna Industrial and Business Park
- Portions of Westbank First Nation IR#9
- Portions of Westbank First Nation IR#10
- Portions of the Central Okanagan West Electoral Area south of Bear Creek Main Forest Service Road, including the Bear Creek Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Site
We'll have further updates throughout the day.