Fire tore into Killiney Beach at 80 metres a minute | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Fire tore into Killiney Beach at 80 metres a minute

Some of the destruction in the Killiney Beach area of the White Rock Lake wildfire.
August 27, 2021 - 6:00 PM

Fire crews faced flames that were racing at 80 metres a minute and throwing ember showers up to three kilometres in front of the candling trees on the night dozens of homes were destroyed on the west side of Okanagan Lake.

That grim picture was painted by B.C. Wildfire liaison officer Clayton Bradley during a virtual town hall meeting for affected residents last night, Aug. 26.

The brunt of the White Rock Lake wildfire hit late in the evening of Aug. 15 and into the early hours of Aug. 16, destroying 78 homes.

READ MORE: iN PHOTOS: The devastation left behind by the White Rock Lake wildfire near Vernon

“That day, I was in Vernon at the (B.C. Wildfire) camp,” Bradley said. “It turned pitch black at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and we had wind gusts of up to 70-80 km that night that led do the event that happened there in the area of Killiney Beach and Ewings Landing.

“It was not without a big fight from our structure protection group and the firefighters on the ground. We saw extreme fire behavior. We were seeing Rank 6 fire behavior, which is the highest fire behavior you can see, where you’ve got trees candling and it was moving at about 80 metres per minute at the height of that event. The crews stayed out late and worked very hard to save structures and did everything they could.”

READ MORE: 'Anything that could be and would be saved, was saved:' North Westside fire chief says

There was a “crowning flame front” that moved between 15 and 80 metres a minute and cast ashes up to three kilometres ahead of the fire.

“The main fire front and showering embers overtook some of the machine guards that had been pre-established to protect communities west of Westside Road, including Estamont and Killiney Beach,” said a statement from B.C. Wildfire that was read at the meeting.

Bradley also said that Westshore Estates was spared on Aug. 5.

“That’s when the fire grew down the Whiteman Creek drainage,” he said. “We dodged a bullet there in Westshore Estates due to firefighting efforts as well as a recent treatment that happened around that community that really helped lay the fire down as it came down.”

READ MORE: Logan Lake has written the Fire Smart playbook for other cities, towns to follow

The White Rock Lake fire along the west side of Okanagan Lake is far from out.

A recent drone flight over the northeast area of the fire – conducted at night using infrared scanners – found 80 hot spots, Bradley said.

“These hot spots, with a bit of wind and the right conditions, can flare up again,” he said, noting crews were working on putting those out.

A similar drone flight was planned, he thought, for the southeast area last night.

The town hall meeting was designed to provide answers to the more than 320 questions evacuated residents sent in earlier.

One key point is that, if things continue to go well, residents can start returning home in five to 10 days.

Right now, B.C. Hydro is busy restoring power. Initially 2,600 homes were without electricity but that number is now down to 562, Mary Anne Coules, from B.C. Hydro, said.

Hydro has 460 “structures” that need to be replaced so wires can be strung. Power cannot be restored to homes with damaged wiring. That will be up to the homeowners to repair.

Central Okanagan West regional district director Wayne Carson said that he’s talking to the Ministry of Highways in order to get roads open to residents while keeping the “looky-loos” out as well as arranging to get school buses through.

He’s been told by the private owner of the Estamont water system that it will be rebuilt.

The Killiney water system is intact but with some damage so there will likely be boil water advisories for some time, Carson said.

“We’re from the Westside so we’re used to boil water notices and water quality advisories,” he quipped.

ALERT (Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team) is actively rescuing pets and other animals from the area. They are currently looking after 10 cats, nine dogs about 33 chickens and some other animals. People wondering about their pets can contact ALERT at 809-7512

Residents were told that, if their homes aren’t repaired by October, they can get B.C. Assessment to adjust their property values for the 2022 tax year, that some utility payments will be waived and that they can contact the Canadian Red Cross about financial assistance at 800-863-6582. They may be eligible for $2,000 if their homes were destroyed and $1,200 if they were evacuated for more than 10 days.

At this point there’s no system set up to prioritize things like building permits for permanent homes versus summer cabins. There may also be issues about rebuilding non-conforming structures or having to build waterfront homes that are the correct distance from Okanagan Lake.

The video of the Town Hall meeting can be seen here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 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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