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500 firefighters battling devastating Kelowna blazes; conditions turning corner

All three wildfires in the Central Okanagan are now a Grouse Complex
Wildfire evacuees Warren Pullen, left, and veteran Rob Pullen sit outside their trailer in the parking lot at an evacuation centre, in Kelowna, B.C., Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

UPDATE 11:00 a.m.

Winds were calmer last night and allowed crews to get ahead of the fires buring in the Central Okanagan.

“This type of event is a marathon,” said Ross Kotscherofski with North Westside Fire Rescue. He’s comfortable with the evacuation alerts and orders in place and doesn’t see the need to add more at this time.

West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund said an urban search and rescue team is being deployed in the area. There has been no reports of missing persons at this time.

Brolund noted that homes have been lost, and the fire has gone up as far as back patios of homes. He commends the work of the fire crews for protecting numerous structures.

“The pilots of the aircrafts that are flying out there have made an indescribable difference.

“We’re taking it one small bit at a time and we are encouraging the public to do the same.”

Return to home will be slow. Power had been shut off to many properties on the west side of the lake to allow fires crews to not worry about fallen power lines.

District of Lake Country Fire Chief Darren Lee got emotional as he thanked fire crews for their hard work and congratulated them for being warriors.

“We got a little more stable, but were not out of the woods.” Lee said evacuation orders and alerts will remain for now.

“I’m really looking forward for today. I think today we can make some progress.”

People on alert or next to the alert zones in Lake Country are asked to not run sprinklers as the water is needed to defend the homes in immediate danger.

A member of the media asked a question of the Kelowna fire chief about the fire that sparked at the landfill.

Chief Travis Whiting said smoke will be coming from the Glenmore landfill for some time, but he’s optimistic fire crews will have success on the landfill again today.

‘The fires burning on the east side of the lake were updated this morning. The Walroy Lake fire in Kelowna’s north end is sitting at 769 hectares while the fire in Lake Country near Clarke Creek is estimated at 174 hectares.

UPDATE 10:15 a.m.

Weather is said to have worked in the favour of firefighters last night working on the Grouse Complex in the Central Okanagan.

Crews are hoping to see smoke lessen through the day to allow for more aerial support.

The heavy smoke is proving it difficult to get accurate measurements on the fires. The McDougall Creek fire continues to sit at 11,000 hectares.

“We finally feel like we’re moving forward,” West Kelowna Fire Cheif Jason Brolund said.

ORIGINAL 9:45 a.m.

The Central Okanagan Emergency Operations team, along with BC Wildfire services and local fire departments will be providing an update about the current wildfire situation at 10 a.m. Sunday morning.

All three wildfires - McDougall Creek (West Kelowna), Walroy Lake (Kelowna), and Clarke Creek (Lake Country) are now a Grouse Complex. This is when three or more wildfires are in close proximity of each other. One incident commander is assigned as well as group air support and personnel are attacking all three fires at the same time in the same area.

Black Press Media has a reporter attending the press conference.

READ MORE: B.C. WILDFIRES: Non-essential travel to 6 Okanagan-area cities restricted


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Jordy Cunningham

About the Author: Jordy Cunningham

Hailing from Ladner, B.C., I have been passionate about sports, especially baseball, since I was young. In 2018, I graduated from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops with a Bachelor of Journalism degree
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