Evacuees head to Vancouver Island as fire crews make progress in Okanagan region

Evacuees head to Vancouver Island as fire crews make progress in Okanagan region

Evacuees from the McDougall Creek wildfire are seeking refuge on Vancouver Island even as crews say progress has been made on the frontlines in the Okanagan.

During a press conference Sunday, fire officials say that “real wins were had” overnight as crews continued battling one of the fires that placed more than 30,000 people on evacuation orders.

“We were able to get a good foothold on establishing some control lines with the utilization of heavy equipment. What that also meant is that in the overnight period, our crews were able to work off of those control lines,” said Jerrad Schroeder, deputy fire centre manager for the BC Wildfire Service.

Officials say that weather conditions have turned favourable and that the cooler air is opening up for better firefighting efforts.

“We’re expecting at least in the next 24 to 36 hours more of the same in regards to that really good firefighting days,” said Schroeder.

The fire grew to 11,000 hectares, but the deputy manager noted that visibility continues to be a barrier in determining the true size of the fire.

No further homes were lost overnight, but as evacuees continue to take up space locally, others are travelling outside the region to seek refuge.


“The air quality here is so poor, and it keeps getting worse and worse,” said Elaine Lawrence.

Lawrence is one of the tens of thousands under an evacuation order and is temporarily relocating to Victoria, but she’s more concerned about the air quality affecting the area.

Environment Canada ranked the air quality in Central Okanagan to be 10+.

“My lungs have always been a little bit of a challenge. Very prone to bronchitis and bronchiolitis, so I am very affected by the air quality,” said Lawrence.

On Saturday, the Province of B.C. placed an order restricting non-essential travel to the Okanagan region, especially for tourism or leisure purposes.

Premiere David Eby said accommodations must be opened up for first responders and local evacuees.

The BC Hotel Association says they saw reservations being cancelled before the wildfire grew exponentially.

“We saw significant cancellations mid-week last week before the fire in Kelowna and West Kelowna really took off,” said CEO Ingrid Jarrett.

Jarrett says that the association is working around the clock with Emergency Management BC to fill rooms for those who need them. Outside of the region, she says other locations, including Vancouver Island, are seeing an influx of reservations.

“When we look at the ferries, when we look at the traffic and we look at the accommodation and occupancy on Vancouver Island. (The) Island was certainly one of the key destinations, and we have seen that before similarly for other crises around the province,” said Jarrett.

Five hundred firefighters have been stationed to fight the McDougall Creek wildfire. The West Kelowna fire chief says the extra help has allowed him to start thinking about recovery efforts.

“That is a massive operation and as it’s built out, we get to do massive, massive things with it,” said Jason Brolund.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced early Sunday that military help is being over to B.C.

Oli HerreraOli Herrera

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