It was a busy and stressful night for thousands of residents in West Kelowna and Kelowna, as well as emergency crews, as the McDougall Creek fire drastically worsened – destroying numerous structures in its path.
The fire, which sparked Tuesday a few kilometres from West Kelowna, was picked up by strong winds Thursday afternoon, exacerbating its growth. By Thursday evening, the fire had crested over the ridge and could be visible from the other side of Okanagan Lake, into Kelowna.
Both communities are under local states of emergencies. Everyone is being urged to have a to-go bag with essentials packed to flee on short notice and many people are on evacuation order, meaning they must leave their residence.
Wildfires in other parts of the Okanagan continue to cause threat, as well, including in Similkameen where community members are facing the possibility of having to flee to safer grounds.
Here’s a breakdown of the largest fires and their current state:
Mcdougall Creek Fire – West Kelowna
Size and location: 1,100 hectares, started 10 km northwest of West Kelowna
State and cause: Considered out of control, and cause under investigation
Current evacuations: An estimated 2,462 properties are under evacuation order and 4,801 properties are under evacuation alert.
Visibility has remained a challenge due to smoke in the area, BC Wildfire Service says. Twenty-one personnel attacked the blaze Thursday, supported by 3 helicopters and air tankers. The fire was notable displaying rank 5 fire behaviour, meaning an organized crown fire front with moderate to long-range spotting.
It’s unknown how many structures have been lost as of Friday morning but Central Okanagan Emergency Operations did confirm structure loss.
— Kyle Brittain (@BadWeatherKyle) August 18, 2023
Westside Road remains closed due to the blaze.
The two wildfires that sparked in Kelowna late Thursday in the Wilden and McKinley areas night are still considered out of control as well.
— Jordy Cunningham (@CunninghamJordy) August 18, 2023
Crater Creek – Similkameen
Size: 14,000 hectares, started 19 km southwest of Keremeos
State and cause: Considered out of control, caused by lightning
Current evacuations: Electoral Area “G” along the Similkameen River on the west side of Highway 3 from 3675 Highway 3 to 4355 Highway 3. This includes Suncatchers RV Park, Riverside MH Park and Lucky R MH Park.
This fire is burning in steep and dangerous terrain, challenging response efforts and posing a significant risk to responder safety on the ground. Visibility in the area is poor this morning due to heavy smoke. Structure protection personnel remained on site overnight.
Lower East Adams – Chase
Size: 10,000 hectares
State and cause: Out of control, caused by lightning
Current evacuations: The following Celista properties are under evacuation order : 4001 to 4596 Meadow Creek Road. The remainder of Meadow Creek Road, and the communities of Lee Creek and Scotch Creek, remain on evacuation alert.
Fire crews were patrolling the area and extinguishing hotspots Thursday overnight. As the expected winds haven’t yet reached the region, BC Wildfire Service said the fire activity was “low” on the west and southwest flank of the fire,” but are expecting extreme fire behaviour once gusts begin, especially where the wind and slope align. The fire remains incredibly visible along Shuswap Lake.
BC Wildfire Services is expected to have updates for the fires around 8 a.m. Friday morning.
More to come.