UPDATE 5:55 p.m.
Now that the skies have cleared on the McDougall Creek wildfire, West Kelowna residents can expect to see helicopter traffic and smoke coming from the fire site again.
Castanet on Tuesday afternoon received multiple calls from readers concerned about additional fires in the mountains above Shannon Lake — an area that burned in the McDougall Creek fire.
Fire information officer Nicole Bonnett says they have 15 helicopters assigned across the three fires in the Central Okanagan, so helicopter traffic will be a given.
“With the smoke finally lifting a little bit and visibility improving, that also means the solar radiant heat from the sun is getting back down to the ground and drying fuels out more. So the fire activity is going to pick up… that’s quite normal.”
She said crews are also still conducting small scale hand ignitions to clean up the fire lines, and residents will continue to see smoke from those.
“We can either do it on our own terms and remove that fuel under better conditions or the fire has the potential to do it on its own in a much more active way.”
Residents can probably expect to see smoke coming from the fire site for the rest of the summer.
“The fire will be burning until we get some sort of season-ending event,” she said.
The fire’s size estimate was updated Tuesday to 12,270 hectares.
UPDATE 11 a.m.
It is expected the number of partial and full structural losses to the McDougall Creek wildfire within West Kelowna and on WFN lands will be less than 90, in addition to fewer than 100 in the regional district.
West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund says Canada Task Force 1 has completed its rapid damage assessment and also worked with the RMCP to confirm that there has been no loss of life and there are no outstanding missing people.
Brolund says that while 90 structures have been significantly damaged or lost in his jurisdiction, more than 3,000 homes were saved in the operating area.
North Westside fire chief Ross Kotscherofski, who is responsible for the area outside city and WFN limits, provided a rough estimate of the number of homes impacted in that area at fewer than 100 structures. The Traders Cove neighbourhood and Lake Okanagan Resort were the hardest hit areas, he said.
Brolund would not get specific about the most-impacted neighbourhoods in West Kelowna and on WFN lands, but already revealed Monday that no homes were lost in the Shannon Lake, Talus Ridge, Smith Creek, Rose Valley neighbourhoods as well as the Lenz Road modular home park.
Brolund characterized last night as a “calm but very busy night.”
Fire crews fought 24 spot fires in the area over the course of the night.
“There was a very close call in one of the neighbourhoods where a tree and wood pile ignited and the home was saved through the action of firefighters.”
“We are working, still, incredibly hard to make sure that we don't lose any homes.”
With the lifting of a small number of evacuation orders on Monday night, Brolund says he is finally starting to feel like they are “turning a corner” on the fire.
“We are meeting multiple times a day to talk about where, when and how we can rescind these evacuation orders.”
Brolund has said the lifting of evacuation orders will be a phased and gradual process, as illustrated by the minor changes to the orders made on Monday night.
He said he expects the smoke to clear somewhat today, which should allow the BC Wildfire Service to get air support back up.
“But the mountains around our community are going to look different. We haven't seen them since the fire and it might be pretty dramatic, to start to see what what we've lost out there,” Brolund said.
BC Wildfire Service incident commander Brad Litke said there are 172 structural firefighters, 72 wildland firefighters and other support staff assigned to the blaze today.
“From a weather perspective, we're expecting lighter winds today but there is a threat of convective activity or thunderstorms. With thunderstorms comes wind, but there may come a small amount of rain associated with that which would be helpful.”
UPDATE 10 a.m.
Central Okanagan Emergency Operations is providing an update on the wildfire situation in the region.
UPDATE 8:50 a.m.
The BC Wildfire Service is now estimating the size of the McDougall Creek Wildfire at 12,000 hectares.
"Visibility has been challenging and limited our ability to get an updated aerial track at this time," the BCWS says on its incident website.
The province has 78 firefighters and 15 helicopters working the fire with hundreds more firefighters from communities across the province also assisting in fighting the blaze.
A number of properties in West Kelowna, WFN and Lake Country have been allowed to go back home. Those people remain on evacuation alert.
The BCWS along with fire chiefs from affected regions will update the fires during a media briefing at 10 a.m.
ORIGINAL 4 a.m.
The few drops of rain that fell over some parts of the Central Okanagan must have been welcome news for the hundreds of firefighters battling the McDougall Creek wildfire and fires burning in Kelowna and Lake Country.
The tiny bit of rain came with a promise of more precipitation expected in the region on Tuesday.
It also came with some lightning that sparked at least one small fire in the Fintry area, however firefighters were able to get to it and get it under control quickly.
As fire crews continue to work at beating back the flames a number of residents got word late Monday night that they can return to their homes.
Those include some residents living on Westbank First Nation lands, West Kelowna, and a portion of Lake Country.
The BC Wildfire Service and chiefs from the four fire departments in the region will again brief the media and residents on progress at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Castanet News will again broadcast the briefing live.