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Westside residents warned White Rock Lake wildfire expected to advance tonight

Okanagan Indian Band warns blaze to reach Whiteman’s area by 6 p.m.
The White Rock Lake wildfire is now 53,612 hectares and expected to enter the Whiteman’s area Friday evening. (B.C. Wildfire Service map)

Westside Road area residents are being warned that the wildfire creeping onto the reserve could get even closer this evening.

The Okanagan Indian Band issued an update Friday afternoon stating it expects the fire will reach Whiteman’s area this evening, by around 6 p.m.

“And it is expected to be very aggressive,” the OKIB Emergency Operations Centre update reads. “As of this moment, we have not lost any buildings to the fire however that could change today.”

Approximately 1,050 OKIB members have been evacuated in addition to several hundred people south of the reserve and hundreds more in the Monte Lake-Falkland area.

Patience is urged by those displaced as the evacuation is taxing all the ESS reception centres in the region.

Evacuees are reminded to register with ESS even if they do not require assistance at this time: 236-599-4022 or 250-241-6945.

The fire jumped Highway 97 Thursday, Aug. 6, at Monte Lake, and structure loss has been reported.

“There may not be much time between the evacuation alert and the evacuation order, so people in the evacuation alert area should be ready to leave so please tell your friends and family to get their go-bags prepared,” OKIB said.

The weather today is expected to be windy with gusts of 20-40 kilometres an hour and the fire will be active, posing challenges for suppression efforts.

Structural protection crews and equipment are positioned throughout the reserve standing by to protect homes and properties.

There are close to 200 people working on the fire, aided by 13 aircraft and 125 structural protection crew staff.

READ MORE: ‘We got your back’: Okanagan Indian Band firefighters

For the sake of your property and your neighbours, those ordered to evacuate are asked to leave now, OKIB said.

Crews are not permitted to protect homes that have not been evacuated.

“We have received reports of people choosing not to evacuate. We want to reiterate how important it is to evacuate now,” the band said. “Flames could reach as high as 400 feet. This is not a defensible fire so please leave now.”

Aerial tankers will not drop retardant or water on occupied properties, so those who decide to stay are affecting their neighbours and other members of the community.

Evacuees with RVs are urged to consider taking them as there is a lack of hotel rooms provincially.

“If you are staying in a hotel and you have access to an RV, please consider giving up your room to another evacuee and moving to a campground,” the band said.

There are cooler temperatures forecast over the coming days and a possibility of rain, therefore the OKIB remains positive but cautious.

“Please do not underestimate this fire. Last night the fire advanced 18 kilometres on one front, so the potential for disaster is high.”

READ MORE: Wildfire crews forced to rescue Monte Lake residents who ignored evacuation order


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The White Rock Lake fire is creeping further onto the Okanagan Indian Band land on the Westside. (Okanagan Indian Band photo)

Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

Vernon has always been my home, and I've been working at The Morning Star since 2004.
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