The next two days will be the most critical of this wildfire season in British Columbia, provincial officials say.
Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness Bowinn Ma and Minister of Forests Bruce Ralston were among the officials who addressed the ongoing wildfire, drought and heat conditions at a news conference Thursday morning, before a cold-weather front was expected to bring strong winds and lightning for virtually the entire province.
“This weather event has the potential to be the most challenging 24 to 48 hours of the summer from a fire perspective,” said Cliff Chapman, director of wildfire operations for the B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS).
Late Wednesday, Central Okanagan Emergency Operations issued an evacuation alert for 4,800 properties in West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation and a portion of the Central Okanagan West Electoral Area.
The alert is due to the McDougall Creek wildfire, which was discovered on Tuesday. By noon Thursday, the BCWS said the fire, which is burning out of control 10 kilometres northwest of West Kelowna, was 2.5 square kilometres in size, having roughly quadrupled over the morning.
“You know, it started very small, as they all do, but I think by the end of today we will be looking at a much larger fire right behind our community and that is what our concern is,” said West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund.
Ma reiterated the importance of residents being prepared with grab-and-go kits so they can leave their homes quickly should an evacuation order come.
“We are urging people to stay calm, to be alert and to be prepared,” she said.
“An evacuation order is not the time to wait and see, especially not under the conditions that are being forecasted.”
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