Central Okanagan Emergency Operations confirmed on Tuesday (Aug. 24) that a total of 78 Westside Road properties have been impacted by the White Rock Lake wildfire.
Communities that have sustained severe damage due to the fire are Killiney, Estamont and the Beau Park area within the Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO). All areas remain on evacuation order.
“We know this is extremely trying times for our residents. More than 70 people lost their homes to this fire,” said Gail Given, the board chair of RDCO.
“It took the homes, despite the very, very valiant and heroic efforts of our volunteer fire service.”
Residents whose properties were impacted by the fire were given a tour of the area on Monday, and Given described the scene as “very emotional.”
“These people are grieving. And they would go through all of the emotions that you do when you’re grieving. It’s hard to see it first hand,” she said.
More than 1,300 properties remain on evacuation order, while another 850 are on alert within RDCO borders.
Ross Kotscherofski, fire services manager for the RDCO, said there is no indication as to when residents can return to the area, as several persisting factors remain.
“It’s everything. The active fire, danger trees, there’s unstable soil, powerlines down. It’s a whole lot of things,” said Kotscherofski.
He noted crews battled aggressive fire behaviour throughout Sunday, with conditions worsening in the evening at around 10 p.m.
“The fire activity got very aggressive due to high winds. It came down the hill at rank five and rank six, and it moved into the homes. We had to triage homes that we could save,” he said.
Having to triage homes, he said, has been devastating for firefighters.
“They’re used to putting fires out. If they see a fire, they want to put it out. In this case, you just have too many homes on fire, so you have to go after the ones you can save, and that’s what fire crews did that night,” he said.
However, he noted that crews are feeling better about the fire’s behaviour.
“Obviously it’s a concern if we start to get high temperatures again and low humidity levels. It could very well act up again and move back into communities,” he said.
The fire remains out of control, with an estimated size of 80,951 hectares.