The raging McDougall Creek wildfire has impacted large swaths of the Central Okanagan.
And late Friday night, local emergency officials gave Global News an early estimate of the inferno’s impact, saying 10,000 properties in the region were on evacuation order.
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The blaze, which was discovered late Tuesday afternoon and quickly exploded in size after being fanned by winds, has caused multiple evacuation orders not only in the West Kelowna area but also Kelowna after burning embers jumped Okanagan Lake.
Calling it a high-level estimate, officials said the 10,000 was nearly split down the middle, with 4,500 properties on the west side of Okanagan Lake (up from 3,700 in the afternoon) and 5,500 properties on the east side of Okanagan Lake.
It was almost the same regarding the number of evacuation orders and alerts.
As of Friday night, there were 10 evacuation orders and three evacuation alerts on the Kelowna side, and 12 evacuation orders and four evacuation alerts on the West Kelowna side.
It’s currently unknown how many properties are on evacuation alert, though provincial officials on Friday gave an estimate of 20,000 across B.C.
Timelapse of McDougall Creek wildfire in the Central Okanagan
On the Kelowna side, the alerts and orders stretch from Lake Country in the north to Knox Mountain Park in the south.
The alerts and orders started late Thursday night, when embers from the fire jumped the lake and started two fires in Kelowna, just north of Knox Mountain Park and north of McKinley Landing.
On Friday morning, evacuation alerts and orders were issued for parts of Lake Country when a new fire started.
That fire was listed as spot-sized at first, but quickly grew. Less than 12 hours after it was discovered, a state of emergency was declared and it’s now at 174 hectares.
Then came alerts for the Glenmore neighbourhood in Kelowna, then UBC Okanagan and Quail Ridge, along with notices that Knox Mountain Park and Dilworth Mountain Park were closed, along with the city’s garbage dump.
Just after 7:30 p.m., an evacuation order was issued for properties in the Clifton area near Rio Drive east to Upper Canyon.
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BC Transit says it was helping evacuate approximately 400 people from UBC Okanagan, adding that transit service to the university is suspended indefinitely.
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The B.C. RCMP said it would also be deploying support to the region to help out.
“As an increasing number of people are being evacuated from their homes due to the various encroaching and fast-moving wildfires throughout the province, the BC RCMP is deploying additional resources to secure evacuated areas,” police said in a press release on Friday.
“In addition to supporting our partners with going door-to-door evacuating residents, RCMP officers will be busy securing evacuation routes and will be conducting frequent static and roving patrols in evacuated areas to secure properties from criminal activity.
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“The RCMP will only leave an evacuated area in the event continued wildfire activity threatens officer safety, but only to pull back to re-establish a new secure zone. Once it’s safe to do so, our officers will return to maintain security.”
“I want to reassure those who have been evacuated that the B.C. RCMP will do everything in our power to keep your homes and properties secure,” said Deputy Commissioner Dwayne McDonald.
Just after 6 p.m., provincial officials held a wildfire update.
“We are facing the worst wildfire season in our province’s history,” B.C. Premier David Eby said during a government update on Friday evening.
Emergency Management and Climate Readiness Minister Bowinn Ma also spoke.
“We are seeing more and more people being evacuated, and access to accommodations is increasingly challenging in the Interior. We need accommodations available to keep people safe and to house critical response personnel like firefighters and healthcare staff,” said Ma.
“At this time, we are strongly recommending that people with plans to travel to fire-affected areas throughout the Central Interior and Southeast in the coming days to cancel those plans.
“We need tourists and travellers to take this situation as seriously as the residents of these areas do. We ask that you please accommodation space available to evacuees, emergency personnel and healthcare workers working across the province.”
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