West Kelowna  

Landscape around Rose Valley reservoir left scarred by McDougall Creek fire

Landscape left scarred

The McDougall Creek wildfire is now considered “held” and all evacuees are able to return home. But the landscape above West Kelowna has been drastically changed.

The large fire was first discovered on Aug. 15, but strong winds from a passing cold front caused the blaze to explode in size on Aug. 17 and 18, destroying whole neighbourhoods in its path and forcing the evacuation of about 10,000 properties.

More than a month later, as temperatures fall and the days become shorter, the danger from the fire has largely subsided, but it's left a significant scar on many of the community's popular recreation areas.

Around the Rose Valley reservoir, where there's many hiking and biking trails, large patches of the forest are now charred, although some greenery appears to have avoided the flames.

The fire made its way right down to the water's edge in some areas, and also burned on both sides of some parts of the trail leading up to the reservoir.

With the fire being declared “held” last week, the City of West Kelowna says staff haven't had the opportunity to assess the Rose Valley reservoir area to determine long-term impacts.

While access to the reservoir is now open to the public, after the BC Wildfire Service reduced the size of its area restriction on Sept. 15, the Regional District of Central Okanagan's Rose Valley Regional Park, located on the east side of the reservoir, remains closed due to hazards left by the fire.

“Until those hazards are actually identified and addressed, the park will remain closed,” said Wayne Darlington, RDCO Park Planning & Capital Projects manager.

“Maybe at some point in time, we're hopeful we can get part of it open, but we'll have to see how things plays out here after these hazard assessments are completed.”

Additionally, Raymer Bay, Stephens Coyote Ridge and Traders Cove regional parks remain closed due to hazards left by the fire.

“Within our parks, what we're seeing right now for the most part is it's more of our natural areas that have been heavily impacted,” Darlington said.

“For instance, a lot of damaged trees as a result of fire, geotechnical hazards with rockfall, potentially hydrophobic soils, things like that that we need to look at. Our trails are also impacted as a result of that, minor damage to some signage.”

He noted that playgrounds, picnic shelters and washrooms at Traders Cove and Raymer Bay regional parks survived the fire.

Darlington says he has no estimated timeline of when these parks may be reopened to the public.

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