UPDATE: Wildfire near Westwold sees significant growth, more properties ordered evacuated

Crews battle the White Rock Lake fire, which has some Westwold residents under evacuation order and even more on alert. (Brent Robertson photo)
The White Rock Lake Fire burns in the mountains. (Brent Robertson photo)
Smoke was thick in Westwold Sunday, July 18 due to a wildfire burning near Douglas Lake. (Arlee Ryan Harvey photo)Smoke was thick in Westwold Sunday, July 18 due to a wildfire burning near Douglas Lake. (Arlee Ryan Harvey photo)

UPDATE: 7 p.m.

Another 165 properties near Westwold have been placed on evacuation alert by the Thompson-Nicola Regional District due to the White Rock Lake wildfire.

The alert affects properties north of Westwold near Monte Lake and Paxton Valley.

A full list of properties on alert is available here.


UPDATE: 6 p.m.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District has issued another evacuation order for 32 more properties at risk due to the White Rock Lake fire burning out of control near Westwold.

The new order is in addition to two others that saw 41 properties evacuated on Sunday and Monday. Another

O’Keefe Ranch, about 30 minutes away from Westwold and just north of Vernon, is opening its doors to evacuees.

The blaze is still estimated to be burning around 4,352 hectares.


ORIGINAL STORY:

The White Rock Lake fire burning out of control near Westwold grew more than 1,300 hectares yesterday and that growth is expected to continue.

The blaze, now burning around 4,352 hectares, already forced 13 properties to evacuate Sunday, plus another 28 on Monday while more remain on alert.

“A narrow excursion emerged from the mapped boundary to the northeast due to increased winds,” BC Wildfire Services (BCWS) said in a July 20 update.

But the fire settled long enough yesterday to allow for structural protection crews to assess properties at risk.

Residents, however, are worried not enough is being done to combat the blaze.

In an email to MLA Todd Stone, Premier John Horgan and Thompson-Nicola Regional District Director Ken Gillis, an area resident said the affected towns are in “dire need of help.”

“We have minimal B.C. fire crews on site as well as locals and local loggers helping fight this fire,” Ashlynn Kruesel wrote in an email calling for more air support. “But there is only so much that they can do.”

Gillis responded saying he had been advised by the provincial agency that the topography doesn’t allow for air tankers.

“The ground crews are our only hope in trying to contain this fire,” he told the constituent.

The Salmon Lake Resort is closed and is allocated as a Fire Emergency Operations Centre.

“A crew of 135 fire response members will occupy and operate from the resort and battle the White Rock Lake Fire, which is in close proximity,” the resort said.

Douglas Lake Road is closed north of the resort and traffic is asked to stay away from the area as much as possible.

According to an update, BCWS said air tankers are inoperable due to high winds, heavy smoke and steep terrain, but more ground crews are expected to arrive in the coming days.

BCWS firefighters continue to work with industry partners to establish and reinforce guard lines while protecting critical infrastructure with recommendations from a structural protection specialist on site.

Two BCWS firefighters, 11 local firefighters, RCMP and 27 support staff are currently assigned to the fire. Crews are assisted by three helicopters and 22 pieces of heavy equipment and one structural protection unit.

BCWS notes some impacts to the hydro line in the area causing multiple outages due to the smoke.

Power was knocked out for more than 41,000 customers between Lake Country and Revelstoke Sunday, July 17, and BC Hydro spokesman Dag Sherman said this was caused by an issue on the transmission line. While the exact cause has yet to be determined, he said it may have been smoke-related, noting the line is located near the fire.

Sherman said heavy black smoke and debris can cause a trip on the power line.

Crews, however, were quick to restore power to its customers only two hours after the outages hit Vernon, Coldstream, Spallumcheen, Enderby and portions of Salmon Arm.

READ MORE: Thousands in North Okanagan without power

READ MORE: B.C. declares state of emergency over wildfire season, preparing for potential ‘mass evacuation’


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B.C. Wildfires 2021