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UPDATE: Evac orders in Pritchard, parts of Kamloops on alert due to White Rock Lake wildfire

Monte Lake Store burns in wildfire, says local government representative

UPDATE: 10:32 p.m.

An additional 373 properties in Pritchard, north of Monte Lake, have been ordered evacuated as a result of the White Rock Lake wildfire.

UPDATE: 10:03 p.m.

The White Rock Lake wildfire continues to display vigorous surface and active crown fire, BC Wildfire Services says, noting growth was predominately on the northeastern and eastern flanks.

Now, the provincial agency says the fire is burning only five kilometres from Westside Road.

The City of Kamloops has issued an alert for properties in Campbell Creek, Barnhartvale and Dallas as the fire continues to advance. This alert also includes the BC Wildlife Park, which is home to more than 200 animals.

“This evening, those who choose not to leave evacuation order areas put B.C.s first responders at tremendous risk,” BCWS said.

“Efforts were taken away from actively suppressing the wildfire and protecting structures to be redirected towards tactically evacuating those who choose to remain in evacuation order area.”

Structure protection crews, consisting of 125 members from 25 fire stations across the province, will remain on scene overnight.

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UPDATE: 9:41 p.m.

The Monte Lake Store is gone as a result of the White Rock Lake wildfire burning out of control at an estimated 32,500 hectares between Vernon and Kamloops, confirmed a local government representative.

Electoral Area L chairman Kenneth Gillis said Thursday night although he hasn’t heard official word from BC Wildfire Services, he has it on good authority that it’s a total loss.

“I have it on reliable authority that the Monte Lake Store burned to the ground, propane tanks exploding in the process,” he told Black Press, but he’s not sure the extent of the damages beyond that.

Another evacuation order for 303 properties within the Westwold and Monte Lake area that were previously on alert is now in place as of 9:15 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5.

An alert was also put into effect for another 117 properties.

UPDATE: 8:45 p.m.

Structural loss in the Monte Lake area is being reported due to the quickly advancing White Rock Lake wildfire.

BC Wildfire Services said in its 7 p.m. update the wildfire continues to display “extremely vigorous surface and active crown fire.”

Black Press is awaiting more information and confirmation from the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.

RCMP and BC Wildfire Service personnel continue a tactical evacuation for those who have chosen to stay despite the evacuation orders.

“When we knock on your door with an evacuation alert, that’s the time to prepare,” Vernon North Okanagan RCMP said in a tweet Thursday night. “When we knock on the door with an evacuation order, it is time to go.”

Lightning and thunder can be heard from across the North Okanagan and heavy black ash is falling in Armstrong.

UPDATE: 7:42 p.m.

Winds continue to push the out-of-control White Rock Lake wildfire to the northeast towards the Falkland area, said the Columbia Shuswap Regional District in evening update Aug. 5.

Evacuation orders are still in effect and the districts and BC Wildfire Services are urging those affected to adhere to the order.

“For other travellers, please try to stay off the roads as much as possible,” the CSRD update reads. “Evacuees are being impeded by congestion and other drivers attempting to get around the road closures.”

BC Wildfire Services incident commander Scott Rennick said people were given ample notice to evacuate.

“But those who chose to stay put my staff at tremendous risk in the path of the fire to get them out of harm’s way,” he said. “Do not put my people in the position that some others did today.”

A video shared on Twitter shows the turnoff to Vernon from Kamloops is closed off with pylons and earlier, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District is reminding motorists to not use backgrounds to gain access.

Black ash is reportedly falling in Salmon Arm, Armstrong and other neighbouring regions.

UPDATE: 5:50 p.m.

The fire has breached Highway 97 south of Monte Lake and strong winds continue to push the White Rock Lake wildfire to the northeast.

Power is also out for 1,343 BC Hydro customers in the evacuation zone along the highway between Falkland and Monte Lake.

BC Wildfire Services said just before 5 p.m. that they continue to respond with aerial and structure protection crews.

Reports of buildings affected by the fire cannot be confirmed by BC Wildfire, but Black Press has reached out to the local government representative for more information.

More than 120 structure protection personnel from 25 fire departments from across the province are remaining overnight to ensure 24-hour coverage of properties in the affected areas.

The highway was closed earlier between Salmon River Road and Monte Creek, east of Falkland, in both directions with no indication of when it will reopen, according to Drive BC.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District asked motorists to not use backroads as access in a tweet sent just before 7 p.m.

Near the fire’s east flank, Westside Road is also closed in both directions between Pinecrest Road and Six Mile Creek Road.

All evacuation orders and alerts remain in place across five municipal jurisdictions.

Earlier today, the Okanagan Indian Band extended its evacuation alert area to include properties between Highway 97 and Tonasket Road to the OKIB IR#1 and Splatsin Salmon River IR#1 boundary.

This includes properties along Highway 97, Range Road, Round Lake Road, Emery Louis Road, Chilhitza Lane and Road, Heywood-Armstrong Road, Madeline Lake Road and Salmon River Bench Road.

“Unfortunately, the winds are not blowing in our favour, so the fire will likely continue to advance toward the reserve overnight,” the OKIB said in a statement. “Currently it is 8.5 kilometres from our border. In similar winds earlier this week, the fire advanced 18 km, so the potential for disaster is high.”

The Township of Spallumcheen said Thursday the Armstrong Spallumcheen Fire Department continues to monitor the wildfire that nears the borders. No evacuation alerts or orders are in effect for the township or City of Armstrong at this time.

“Please do be proactive in the event this area expands and have all required planning in place in the event we are issued an alert from BC Wildfire,” the township said.

After reports of residents choosing to disobey evacuation orders, the OKIB warned that structure protection won’t be provided as aerial and ground crews cannot drop water or retardant on occupied homes.

“We have received reports of people choosing not to evacuate. If you live in an area under Evacuation Order is important that you evacuate now. The structural protection units will not protect occupied properties, so if you want your property to be eligible for protection you must evacuate now.”

UPDATE: 2:43 p.m.

There will be no public access to Killiney Beach Community Park due to the nearby White Rock Lake wildfire.

The Regional District of Central Okanagan said the closure of the 5.6-hectare beachfront park at the end of Hodges Road is necessary so North Westside Fire Rescue crews can have unrestricted access to fill water tenders and fire trucks.

UPDATE: 12:50 p.m.

The Okanagan Indian Band has extended an evacuation order from Komasket Road North to Newport Beach, Aug. 5.

The area includes Westside Rd. and Louis Estates (northern boundary) to 11501 Komasket Rd. (southern boundary).

Streets included in the Evacuation Order area:

  • Newport Rd. Sqarielks Rd Tantalux Rd.
  • Tantalux Rd. N Louie’s Ln. Jenny’s Dr.
  • The Bunny Path Cameron Dr. Laverman Dr.
  • Brewer Trail McMilan Dr. Goodwater Dr.
  • Logan’s Landing Skookum Mine Rd. Mary’s Emerald Bay
  • Able Cove Rd.
  • Westside Rd. (11505-12127)
  • 11501 Komasket Rd. Fred Road

Area resident Dan Newcomb captured BC Wildfire Services actioning the south end of Monte Lake around 11:30 a.m. (Dan Newcomb - Facebook)
Area resident Dan Newcomb captured BC Wildfire Services actioning the south end of Monte Lake around 11:30 a.m. (Dan Newcomb - Facebook)

BC Wildfire Services is urging residents ordered to evacuate to do so immediately.

“Choosing to remain in an area that is under an evacuation order puts you, your family and first responders in danger,” said BCWS fire information officer Hannah Swift. “People who remain in an area under an evacuation order may impede the ability for our fire crews to fight a wildfire.”

“Although you may not feel you’re immediately in danger, you may quickly find your escape route is challenged or you may become disoriented by blankets of thick smoke.”

Increased winds are expected to fan the fire, specifically along the northeast and east flanks, BCWS said in the noon update, Aug. 5.

This increased fire behaviour is expected to continue into the evening and overnight, said incident commander Scott Rennick.

“The importance of evacuating out of these areas cannot be stressed enough,” he said, adding he has personally experienced an evacuation himself — most recently as the base manager in the Lytton area.

“We had, of course, a devasting fire that required immediate evacuation without orders or alerts. These fires move very, very quickly and unexpectedly,” he said.

The best thing to do, he said, is to be prepared to leave and follow evacuation orders and alerts.

“Don’t put yourself in a situation where it’s a last-minute affair,” he said. “These are quite serious natural disasters we’re dealing with right now at this point.”

Evacuation alerts are in place for thousands of properties within the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, Thompson-Nicola Regional District, Central Okanagan Regional District, Regional District of North Okanagan and Okanagan Indian Band.

Thousands more remain on evacuation alert.

A map depicting evacuation alerts and orders in effect for all municipalities affected by the White Rock Lake wildfire as of 1:10 p.m. Aug. 5, 2021. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star infographic)
A map depicting evacuation alerts and orders in effect for all municipalities affected by the White Rock Lake wildfire as of 1:10 p.m. Aug. 5, 2021. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star infographic)

ORIGINAL: 9:30 a.m.

Wind is forecasted to pick up around noon Thursday (Aug. 5), with gusts of up to 40 km/h, increasing fire activity of the White Rock Lake wildfire burning out of control only 34 kilometres northwest of Vernon.

Smoke hindered accurate mapping of the fire boundaries, but when conditions improved over the past 48 hours, BC Wildfire Services reported the fire was only 8.5 kilometres west of Westside Road.

Last night (Aug. 4), hundreds more were evacuated including the entire community of Falkland, including Cedar Creek and Pinaus Lake areas in the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD), Westwold and Monte Lake in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD).

Additional properties in Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) between 11497 Smith Crescent and 11071 Westside Road/Mud Hole Road, westward to the reserve boundary, were ordered evacuated.

The Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) expanded its order to include a portion of Electoral Area B above Westside Road, including properties located on the west side of Irish Creek Road and Beatrice Road.

The Evacuation Order previously issued for properties along Bouleau and Pinaus Lake, as well as properties south of Six Mile Creek Road, remain in effect.

The evacuation alert in the CSRD has been expanded to include Silver Creek, Deep Creek and Gardom Lake. Properties from 6547 to 6899 Six Mile Creek Road are not impacted by the order.

More than 500 evacuees from the Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) and OKIB and have registered at the evacuee reception centre since Sunday night (Aug. 1). But the City of Vernon announced Thursday it’s seeking more volunteers to help welcome and register those displaced by the wildfire.

Extreme burning conditions are expected through the weekend with temperatures in the high-20s and low relative humidity, that plus winds will give way to dry fuels, BCWS said in an update.

Thirteen helicopters and 43 pieces of heavy equipment will be aiding 136 wildland firefighters, seven support staff, 125 structure protection personnel and 10 danger tree fallers.

BCWS incident commander Scott Rennick said in an Aug. 4 update that crews were quite successful on suppression activities on the west flank of the White Rock Lake wildfire. On the northwest flank, fire has been advancing slowly toward Monte Lake and crews continue to use heavy equipment to secure guard lines.

Most of the fire activity, Rennick said, has been on the east flank towards Westside Road.

Rennick said heavy-lift helicopters, bucketing support are being utilized and a skimmer and fixed-wing retardant may also be used to slow the progression.

“The main thrust of what we’re doing is ramping up structure protection resources,” Rennick said. “If the fire does move to the east or northeast if it does come into areas more in the urban interface, then we’re able to successfully suppress and respond to incidents that occur.”

One-hundred and 26 structure protection personnel from 25 different fire departments are ready to protect infrastructure in Westwold, Falkland, Cedar Hills, Pinaus Lake and communities along Westside Road, including Okanagan Indian Band IR#1.

“Defending structures from a wildland fire isn’t always possible in every situation,” said fire information officer Hannah Swift. “Several factors including risks to firefighters, fire behaviour and the availability of resources will dictate our ability to successfully defend threatened structures.”

Swift also extended gratitude to the public’s ongoing support.

“It’s important for our firefighters and staff to know the communities they’re working behind them and support the extremely important work they’re doing.”

READ MORE: Entire community of Falkland ordered evacuated due to White Rock Lake wildfire

READ MORE: Volunteers needed to help White Rock Lake wildfire evacuees at Vernon reception centre


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