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‘We got your back’: Okanagan Indian Band firefighters

Westside residents unable to sleep at night given assurance that firefighters are on fire watch 24-7
The White Rock Lake fire is creeping in the Sugarloaf Mountain valley near Westside. (Contributed)

Dark plumes of smoke, flickers of flame and ash raining down have produced many sleepless nights for Westside residents.

But Okanagan Indian Band Fire Rescue crews want those residents who are not yet on evacuation order to know that they are in good hands.

“Rest easy,” OKIB firefighter Mike Doherty said. “We got your back.”

OKIB fire crews are patrolling 24-7 on fire watch up and down Westside Road and up the hills.

“We have portable pumps all along and up and down Westside Road to fill water trucks and B.C. Wildfire has a number of fire trucks from around the province available,” Doherty said.

Fintry resident Susan Cseh and her daughter spoke with some firefighters that were there on watch Thursday evening (Aug. 5).

“They said it looks like the way this fire is travelling it is going to reach a valley which will be directly behind Sugarloaf Mountain,” said Cseh, who is on evacuation alert. “I feel confident that the fire will not reach Fintry as we are more southeast and this fire seems to be going northeast and a bit of south but not as far as where I live.”

The estimated 45,000-hectare fire saw significant action overnight, with many structures being lost in Monte Lake.

The most southeastern fire perimeter is approximately five kilometres west of Westside Road, B.C. Wildfire Service said.

Last night, those who chose not to follow evacuation orders put crews at tremendous risk.

“Efforts were taken away from actively suppressing the wildfire and protecting structures and were redirected towards tactically evacuating those who choose to remain in evacuation order areas,” the Wildfire Service said. “If you are in an evacuation order area you must leave immediately.”

The OKIB echoes the sentiments and reminds those who refuse to leave aren’t eligible for protection.

“The structural protection crews will not protect occupied properties. In addition, aerial tankers cannot drop water or retardant on occupied homes,” OKIB said. “For the benefit of yourself and all members, it is important that you evacuate now.”

Further wind gusts upwards of 40 kilometres an hour are expected into this evening and the public is urged to maintain a heightened awareness of the situation over the next 48 hours and be prepared for further potential evacuations.

READ MORE: Structures, campground destroyed as White Rock Lake wildfire grows to 45,000 hectares

READ MORE: Create an evacuation plan ahead of orders, alerts: City of Vernon


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Okanagan Indian Band Fire Rescue crews are on 24/7 fire watch patrolling the area. (Susan Cseh photo)

Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

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