UPDATE: Evacuation orders on White Rock Lake fire expanded due to expected winds | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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UPDATE: Evacuation orders on White Rock Lake fire expanded due to expected winds

An aerial image of the White Rock Lake wildfire, taken on July 26, 2021.
Image Credit: B.C. Wildfire Service
August 05, 2021 - 5:51 PM

Regional districts near the White Rock Lake wildfire have expanded evacuation orders to include multiple communities on Wednesday night.

Westwold, Falkland and Monte Lake were ordered to evacuate, along with other regional district and Okanagan Indian Band properties, due to growth at the White Rock Lake wildfire.

Between the multiple regional districts affected and the Okanagan Indian Band, the expanded evacuation orders were issued between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., Aug. 4.

The evacuation orders were expanded in anticipation of persistent southwest winds, which have since caused the fire to spread aggressively through the area, now breaching Highway 97 south of Monte Lake.

Fire information officer Hannah Swift said ground crews were forced to pull back from the fire perimeter out of safety concerns. The 13 helicopters assigned to the wildfire have been bucketing water on Aug. 5, along with air tanker assistance during the day.

Swift said smoke conditions improved in recent days, allowing for more aerial operations, but it comes with increased heat coming earlier in the day.

Although the evening will bring cooler temperatures, helicopters will be forced to ground overnight, but the wind will continue into Friday, according to Swift.

While the wildfire spreads aggressively due to wind conditions, its proximity to Monte Lake threatens the nearby community, but the Thompson Nicola Regional District was unable to confirm whether any properties have been burned, citing smoke coverage hampering the ability to do aerial surveillance today.

Highway 97 is also closed from east of Falkland to Monte Creek.

With the help of helicopters, crews continue fireguard construction on the southwest and northwest flanks of the wildfire. They will directly attack hotspots and the wildfire perimeter where possible from Pratt Road to Monte-Camp Road.

Both west and south of Westwold, ground crews will be working to contain the wildfire and complete fire guard from Adelphi Road to Wood Lake. The wildfire service is also using heavy machinery to build a contingency fire guard to the north of that perimeter.

Heavy helicopters are dousing hot spots where possible on the southeast flanks today, but most of the focus in that area is to protect communities and structures along Westside Road. Ground crews have been unable to enter the area on the southeast flanks due to safety concerns. 

Fire information officer Shannon Street said the lack of egress routes and steep terrain have hampered the wildfire service's ability to send ground crews to that area.

On Aug. 4, the southeast flank of the White Rock Lake wildfire was within 8.5 kilometres from Westside Road.

In addition to 136 wildland firefighters assigned to White Rock Lake, there are 125 structure protection personnel, 13 helicopters and 43 heavy equipment units.

There are also ten danger tree assessors who will enter an area before ground crews to flag or fall trees that could pose a risk to personnel or heavy machinery.

Highway 97 through Falkland and Monte Lake remains open, but drivers are told not to stop within the 51 kilometre stretch from Salmon River Road to Barnhartvale Road.

The White Rock Lake wildfire was mapped at 32,500 hectares on Aug. 4. 

Go here to see evacuation updates from the Thompson Nicola Regional District.

Go here for updates from the Columbia Shuswap Regional District.

Go here for updates from the Regional District of North Okanagan.

Go here for updates from the Okanagan Indian Band.

— This story was updated at 11:15 a.m., Aug. 5, 2021, with information from the B.C. Wildfire Service.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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