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Wildfire evacuation orders/alerts to be downgraded in Central Okanagan

‘The emergency is not over, but we are working on ensuring a strong recovery plan’
A person travels in a boat past people walking on the boardwalk as smoke from the McDougall Creek wildfire blankets the area on Okanagan Lake, in Kelowna Friday, Aug. 18, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Evacuation orders and alerts due to wildfires in the Central Okanagan are expected to be downgraded today in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Lake Country.

During a regional update Wednesday, Aug. 23, Kelowna City Manager Doug Gilchrist said that information will soon be made available on the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre website (COEOC).

“While we recognize that the emergency is not over in many areas…we are working in parallel with those response efforts on ensuring a strong recovery plan,” added Gilchrist.

He added recovery efforts will still be coordinated but that each affected community will handle its own recovery with the assistance of provincial resources.

Information will also be available on the EOC website later today for homeowners to determine the status of their properties.

“When you get to the website you’ll be asked to put in your address and you’ll immediately get a response whether your property is fine or whether it has been damaged,” explained Gilchrist. “If your property is not on the list with having significant damage, it does not mean you can go home.”

Homeowners will total or partial loss will be asked to fill out a form and will then be contacted by someone from the EOC.

“When it is safe to do so we will be looking to have property owners taken out to those properties on a priority basis, ” said Gilchrist.

Those without internet access can call the COEOC at 250-469-8490. The web-based model is necessary given the number of properties affected.

“In a perfect world our preference, without question, would be to personally call every single homeowner and be with them when they receive what is probably the worst news they have ever received,” said Sally Ginter, CAO for RDCO. “The reason we are doing this website isn’t because we don’t care, it’s because we do care.”

Ginter added those who have lost their homes will continue to be supported.

West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund has confirmed that 84 properties have some form of damage in the city and the Westbank First Nation.

WFN officials have confirmed that 11 properties and a fourplex have been destroyed or damaged.

He said the downgrading of evacuation orders and alerts will come in small pieces.

“They will be nowhere as large when we asked you to leave. We’re looking at first and foremost is it safe to do so.”

Brolund added that includes making sure fires are out and that utilities and infrastructure and safe and properly restored.

North Westside fire chief Ross Kotscherofski said 90 properties in the area have been damaged in the RDCO Electoral West area.

“I want to stress these are not structures, these are properties and some properties such as the Lake Okanagan Resort (LOR) have several structures on one property. LOR has a total of almost 195 units within the property.”

Kotscherofski added that much of the work in the area cannot be completed until hazard assessment have been conducted.

“We will do our best to get you that information and any changes as that becomes available.”

Gilchrist reminded homeowners to be cautious around their properties once they are allowed to return.

“Unstable ground, dangerous trees, and things of the like may certainly still exist. Please do not go into the forested areas around the homes, those have not been assessed.”

Recent mapping by the BC Wildfire Service puts the McDougall Creek wildfire at just over 12,000 hectares, the Walroy Lake fire in Kelowna at 790 hectares and the Clarke Creek fire in Lake Country at 370 hectares.

READ MORE: No changes to Kelowna wildfire overnight despite rain and lightning in the area

READ MORE: McDougall Creek wildfire in West Kelowna remains the same as air improves


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Gary Barnes

About the Author: Gary Barnes

Journalist and broadcaster for three decades.
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