iN VIDEO: Tourists urged to avoid travel to North Okanagan due to White Rock Lake wildfire: minister | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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iN VIDEO: Tourists urged to avoid travel to North Okanagan due to White Rock Lake wildfire: minister

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth.
Image Credit: Submitted/Province of B.C.
August 13, 2021 - 4:33 PM

The Minister of Public Safety is urging tourists to avoid parts of the North Okanagan as wildfire activity is expected to increase with significant winds in the forecast.

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety, and Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, along with officials from Emergency Management B.C. and the B.C. Wildfire Service gave an update on the forecasted wildfire conditions in B.C. this afternoon, Aug. 13.

In the next 72 hours, increased fire activity on the White Rock Lake wildfire is expected, including significant winds, Farnworth said.

He asked tourists to avoid visiting Armstrong, Spallumcheen, Okanagan Indian Band, Enderby and other parts of the Regional District of North Okanagan so evacuees will have a safe place to stay in the region.

“We are taking this proactive step because the safety of these communities is paramount,” Farnworth said, adding the situation is very serious and could get worse quickly.

There are currently 268 wildfires currently burning in the province.

“Today we’re here to share an additional challenge ahead over the coming three days,” said Cliff Chapman, director of provincial operations, B.C. Wildfire Service. Winds are set to arrive tomorrow and get stronger through Sunday and linger into the next week.

Predictions include winds reaching 30 km/hr tomorrow, with certain areas expecting winds between 50 to 60 km/hr, including on the White Rock Lake wildfire. These high winds may cause the fire to spread, as well as create spot fires.

“The potential impact to this forecasted weather is a direct threat to life and property,” Chapman said.

The White Rock Lake wildfire has burned 58,000 hectares and has put numerous properties on evacuation orders and alerts.

“Evacuation orders are put in place for a reason and that is to protect life,” Farnworth said. “That’s the number one priority always and when people ignore that… firefighters can be diverted from the fires to rescue but putting (both parties) in danger.”

Farnworth said there is accommodation for Logan Lake evacuees who need it in Chilliwack and asked people stay with family and friends when possible. There was a recommendation from the local level that told residents be prepared to stay in their vehicles but he said they are not recommending that.

Chapman said smoke has hampered the service’s ability to conduct aerial operations.

“They are not able to fly all the time, but when there’s an opportunity we will put them in the sky," he said.

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