UPDATE: Planned burns set for White Rock Lake wildfire near Westwold

An aerial view of Monday afternoon's White Rock Creek wildfire behaviour in the Jimmy Lake area July 26, 2021. (BC Wildfire Services)
The Okanagan Indian Band has put the area in green on evacuation alert due to the White Rock Lake wildfire. (OKIB)
Firefighters from Barriere arrive on scene near the White Rock Lake wildfire. (Martin Kratky - Facebook)Firefighters from Barriere arrive on scene near the White Rock Lake wildfire. (Martin Kratky - Facebook)
BC Wildfire Service's fire dashboard July 28, 2021, around the White Rock Lake wildfire. (BCWS)

Extreme weather conditions are behind the significant growth of the White Rock Lake wildfire Tuesday, July 27, and BC Wildfire Services is trying to stay ahead by conducting planned burns along the east flank.

In a Wednesday afternoon update, the provincial agency said through the use of golf-ball-sized plastic sphere dispensers that cause a chemical reaction, BCWS personnel can ignite a manageable amount of fuels in an accurate manner as conditions allow.

The out-of-control fire is burning on the boundaries of three regional districts near Westwold at an estimated 20,000 hectares Wednesday, up from 17,900 Tuesday. The east flank grew towards the Bouleau Lakes area and the north flank is also very active.

Twenty properties in the Regional District of North Okanagan are on evacuation order, along with 85* from Thompson-Nicola Regional District and one seasonal resort, eight seasonal dwellings, one seasonal property and two year-round residences within the Columbia-Shuswap Regional District.

The Regional District of North Okanagan expanded its evacuation order and alert area July 27, 2021. (RDNO)

Another estimated 1,220 properties across the three districts are on alert, ready to move at a moment’s notice.

An evacuation alert is also in effect for a portion of Okanagan Indian Band IR#1, from the southernmost boundary to Newport Beach, including Old Mill site, Parkers Cover, Whiteman’s Creek, 6 Mile and Komasket Park Area. As of Wednesday afternoon, OKIB extended the alert around Head of the Lake, bordering Vernon’s Adventure Bay.

“Receiving an evacuation alert makes your guts clench no matter how prepared you think you are,” area resident Brenda Giesbrecht said.

“Tuktakamin mountain immediately south of the townsite is bathed in smoke. It’s eerie… very little sound other than highway traffic — no bird song, no voices,” she said. “It is like everyone is holding their breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

An area restriction order took effect July 27 at noon and will remain in place until Oct. 15 or until its rescinded.

The BC Wildfire Services has declared an area restriction order which went into effect July 27 at noon. This order will stay in effect until Oct. 15, 2021, or until it's rescinded. (BCWS)

BC Wildfire Services said elevated fire behaviour is expected to continue given the amount of fuel loading in the area and smoke columns will be visible to surrounding communities.

Subtropical moisture may bring thunderstorms, strong wind and dry lightning to the region Thursday, the provincial agency said. That along with forecasted hot and dry conditions throughout the weekend will pose challenges to fire suppression.

Smoky conditions are hampering the ability for airtankers to aid in the firefighting efforts.

One hundred firefighters from Quebec will battle alongside 17 BCWS personnel Wednesday, July 28. The support for the east is staying at a camp established at Salmon River Resort.

They will be assisted by 10 danger tree assessors and fellers, 35 support staff and 36 pieces of heavy equipment. Seven helicopters will continue to deliver water to problematic areas of the fire in support of ground suppression efforts.

More support, too, is coming from several Vancouver Island-based fire departments including Mill Bay, Courtenay and Oyster Bay.

Heavy equipment is being used to construct safe zones, large, cleared areas along the guard lines, that would provide crews with a place to shelter should fire activity flare-up.

Other pieces of equipment are being used to connect and reinforce control lines. Crews are working behind to support control lines with a water delivery system and hose lay.

A ground-based retardent unit is reinforcing control lines on the east of the perimeter from Talbot to Douglas Road.

*Editor’s Note: this number has been amended based on a correction from the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.

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B.C. Wildfires 2021