Fire crews forced to take shelter battling White Rock Lake wildfire | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Fire crews forced to take shelter battling White Rock Lake wildfire

The White Rock Lake wildfire, Aug. 6, 2021.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Kane Blake
August 16, 2021 - 4:13 PM

Firefighters battling the White Rock Lake wildfire had to take cover due to aggressive fire behaviour last night.

Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth, Minister of Forests Katrine Conroy and deputy Minister of Forests Rick Manwaring, provided an update on the province’s response to wildfires today, Aug. 16, in a press conference.

B.C. Wildfire Service and structure protection firefighters had to shelter in safe zones due to aggressive wildfire activity when battling the wildfire burning along Westside Road, Farnworth said.

“The speed in which these fires travel continues to challenge crews,” he said.

Conroy said the firefighters were temporarily cut off and had to seek refuge.

The Okanagan Indian Band and other surrounding areas have experienced significant structure loss due to the wildfire, Farnworth said.

Yesterday, extreme weather led to rapid fire growth on wildfires across the Interior.

“We’re facing the toughest wildfire conditions ever seen in this province. In some areas, thick and pervasive smoke is darkening the skies,” Conroy said.

The Lytton fire complex saw significant growth last night and caused the evacuation of the Lower Nicola. The City of Merritt was placed under an evacuation alert.

A "violent encounter" yesterday led to a vehicle fire in the Brookmere area which caused the Brook Creek wildfire, Farnworth said. The wildfire has now merged with the July Creek wildfire and has caused the closure of the Coquihalla Highway between Hope and Merritt.

The RCMP are investigating the cause of the Brook Creek fire, he said.

In the event Merritt needs to be evacuated and Highway 5 is closed, Emergency Management B.C. is considering different scenarios that may include aircraft evacuations if necessary, Farnworth said. 

The Tremont Creek wildfire burning to the west of Kamloops has also caused evacuation orders for Cherry Creek and an alert for properties within the city.

Logan Lake was evacuated due to the wildfire last week and this weekend crews were able to direct the fire away from the community, Conroy said.

The Thompson Nicola Regional District is calling on the military for more resources but Farnworth said the military is already on the ground helping out with wildfires in the region and there will be additional support as required.

Farnworth also answered questions about Premier John Horgan being on vacation during this time, saying Horgan is briefed every day on the wildfire situation.

He also urged tourists to avoid travelling to areas affected by wildfire zones so evacuees can have accommodations. There is also a COVID-19 outbreak in the Central Okanagan, so tourists are also being asked to avoid the area.

“This is not a time to visit or travel through the region,” he said.

Temperatures are expected to cool off for the rest of August, and a similar weather pattern to this month is expected in September, with not a lot of moisture, Manwaring said.

— This story was updated Aug. 16, 2021 at 4:30 p.m. to include additional details from the press conference.

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