'Fire is literally in people’s backyards': More resources coming for White Rock Lake wildfire | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'Fire is literally in people’s backyards': More resources coming for White Rock Lake wildfire

White Rock Lake B.C. Wildfire incident commander Mark Healey, deputy minister of Forests Rick Manwaring and Jamie Jeffreys, director of strategic engagement and partnerships with B.C. Wildfire spoke at a press conference Aug. 12, 2021
August 12, 2021 - 1:37 PM

A 58,000 hectare wildfire threatening properties on the west side of Okanagan Lake will see additional resources today with more to arrive this weekend.

The B.C. Wildfire Service held a press conference at its Vernon camp at Kal Tire Place today, Aug. 12, to give an overview of the White Rock Lake wildfire as well as provide a tour of the camp.

Earlier this week, a resident whose house burned down expressed frustration with the wildfire service and said he didn’t see much of a response from crews along Westside Road.

An aerial survey of areas affected by the White Rock Lake wildfire in the Central Okanagan found at least six structures on four properties in the Bouleau Lake area had sustained significant fire damage.

READ MORE: 6 structures confirmed damaged by White Rock Lake wildfire near Okanagan Lake

“Along Westside Road, the fire is literally in people’s backyards and has been for a number of days. We have structural protection units in there along with heavy equipment along with wildland firefighters,” said wildfire service incident commander Mark Healey.

Rick Manwaring, deputy minister with the Ministry of Forests, addressed some residents' concerns for the lack of seeing resources on the fire and said people will see resources come and go with fires, as they’re allocated depending on priorities especially once structure protection resources are in place.

There are just under 200 firefighters on the ground and heavy equipment has been creating fire lines, Healey said, and ignitions are planned for this afternoon on the White Rock Lake wildfire.

Crews are strategically placed in high priority areas to ensure the firefighters and communities are safe, he said.

Healey said he’d take “as many resources as I can get,” but noted there’s a shortage of resources available nationwide and around the world.

In his 28 years with the B.C. Wildfire Service he has never seen forest fuels this dry, or fire behaviour this extreme. He called the wildfire a "catastrophic event."

The fire will grow, “for sure” with the incoming heatwave and weather conditions expected for this week, he said.

The Vernon B.C. Wildfire camp
The Vernon B.C. Wildfire camp

Despite criticisms about lack of resources on the wildfire, he said with the extremely dry conditions, fire behaviour is significant and upon initial attack, it quickly expanded in all directions.

“We put a lot of energy into this like other wildfires in the province,” he said.

With the constant criticism of the wildfire service online, he said crews on the ground, who are young millennials living on social media, are not taking it well.

Today, there will be about 40 people coming from Alberta and on Sunday 151 additional firefighters are coming from Quebec, said Jamie Jeffreys, director of strategic engagement and partnerships with the B.C. Wildfire Service.

“We are continuing to look for partners and we are getting resources on a regular basis,” Jeffreys said.

The White Rock Lake wildfire is currently 58,000 hectares in size and burning out of control near Vernon.

READ MORE: Evacuation order re-issued for Fintry, Westside Road properties due to White Rock Lake wildfire

This afternoon, the Regional District of Central Okanagan reissued an evacuation order for Fintry, Las Casa and Westside Road properties due to the wildfire. Other evacuation orders and alerts remain in place from the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, Columbia-Shuswap Regional District, Splatsin, Okanagan Indian Band and City of Vernon.

Neill Moroz, structure protection specialist with B.C. wildfire, said they have more than 300 homes being protected with sprinklers and another 1,000 protected with wet lines.

About 330 wildfire personnel are currently staying the Vernon camp, with crews as young as 18 but the average age of firefighters being between the ages of 25 to 27, said Cian Carroll, logistics section chief with the wildfire service.

No firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19 and they do have rapid testing in place, he said.


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