West Kelowna  

Fire officials say the McDougall Creek wildfire could burn until the snow flies

Fire could burn for weeks

Rob Gibson

The McDougall Creek wildfire continues to burn out of control on the doorstep of West Kelowna, and as people slowly return to their homes, the fire fight could continue in the mountains for weeks.

"There is still a lot of fire behind our community,” said West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund on Monday.

“This fire will be with us for a while, not in the streets and neighbourhoods but in the hills above our community.”

BC Wildfire Service incident commander Brad Litke says they are still working to secure the fire in the forest and the recreational forest behind West Kelowna and Westside Road. He noted that a new incident management team is coming in to relieve the existing one.

“We'll continue to have resources here until we feel confident that the fire is no longer going to grow and no longer become a threat to the communities — that could take weeks," he said.

BCWS is also in the middle of a shift change to bring in fresh reinforcements, including 100 firefighters from South Africa who will be joining the fight.

Litke said the wildfire in the forest outside the city “continues to challenge us.”

“From a prioritization perspective, we wanted to reduce further loss of any structures as well as get people back in their homes. Now at the same time, we are shifting our resources to protect the forests.”

West Kelowna residents are likely to see flare-ups in the hills in the coming days as well as continued planned ignitions.

"Planned ignitions are being conducted in sections to ensure lower intensity fire behaviour to minimize tree mortality of the working forest and the recreational forest. Based on the warming and drying trends, fire activity and fire behaviour has been increasing throughout the afternoons," Litke said.

Work also continues on getting evacuees from the hardest hit areas home.

"The power poles are burned, the lines are on the ground, the transformers are tipped over, all of that is being removed and it's being rebuilt,” explained Brolund.

“There are danger trees which in any sort of windstorm those trees could tip over and we don't want people in the vicinity of them.”

North Westside Fire Rescue chief Ross Kotscherofski reiterated similar concerns for his area and suggested the southern part of Westside Road will stay closed for some time.

"It is not safe to go through the (fire) zone, we have powerlines down, and we've got a lot of things that will affect safe passage.”

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