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Community leaders urge calm and patience as crews battle Okanagan wildfires

‘We have been here before, and we got through it together’
Joanne Zebroff captured this image of the Kelowna wildfire in Clifton/McKinley on Aug. 18, 2023. (Facebook)

Community leaders are asking residents to abide by evacuation orders and follow emergency directives pertaining to Central Okanagan Wildfires.

“The McDougall Creek wildfire has been shocking, traumatic and devastating for the West Kelowna community,” said Mayor Gord Milsom during a regional wildfire update. “I thank our residents for adhering to evacuation alerts and orders and remaining calm.”

READ MORE: ‘We are an army out there’: West Kelowna fire chief

Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas noted that the past 48 hours have been extremely difficult.

“As we have heard from our fire chiefs, it’s not over yet. There is still a lot of work that we need to do to make sure that everyone is safe.”

Dyas said there are approximately 5,053 properties on alert and 2,057 on evacuation order in Kelowna. He added that recovery plans are already being made.

“More information will be available in the coming days with regards to individual structures.”

The mayor also asked the public to stay out of active fire zones and off parts of Okanagan Lake.

“As has been mentioned numerous times, boaters please avoid the area north of William R. Bennett Bridge, to ensure safety as bombers and emergency crews continue to work in those areas.”

READ MORE: Glenmore wildfire in Kelowna shows limited growth, 2,057 on evacuation order

Westbank First Nation Chief Robert Louie said the loss of property and businesses has been devastating.

“There is lots of collective grief and high emotions,” he said. “I can only ask that you be as calm as you can, patient and vigilant.”

Louie added that the Westbank First Nation gymnasium on Quail Lane is open to the general public for accommodation, food, and emergency services.

“We will do the best we can to assist anyone that’s in need.”

Lake Country Mayor Blair Ireland said structures have been lost in his community, Okanagan Centre.

“We cannot get into the details. We will try and inform people as soon as we can about the structures that have been affected. We urge them to be patient.”

Ireland mentioned many people are stopping in Lake Country to get a look at the wildfires.

“We have a lot of boat traffic,” he said. “I personally witnessed the RCMP chasing yachts away that were cruising up and down this morning. It’s very frustrating they have to deal with that sort of thing.”

READ MORE: Aerial support back in the air battling Lake Country wildfire, evacuations remain in place

Regional District Central Okanagan Chair Loyal Wooldridge pointed out that the priority right now is the safety of residents and first responders.

“We know that people are anxious to get home and know the outcomes of the structural loss,” he added. “Please know, that after this fire is out, this work will be done and we will make sure neighbourhoods are safe so that you can go home. We have been here before, and we got through it together.”

Currently, 10,700 properties in the Central Okanagan are on evacuation order, with an additional 9,500 on alert.

More wildfire information is available on the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations website.

READ MORE: Colder weather calms down West Kelowna wildfire, evacuations remain


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Gary Barnes

About the Author: Gary Barnes

Journalist and broadcaster for three decades.
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