Fire crews continue to battle 3 West Kelowna blazes
A massive B.C. wildfire burning dangerously close to homes near West Kelowna is now about 40 per cent contained, but two other fires in the region remain out of control, fire officials said Monday.
The containment efforts come as crews continue to make "aggressive" attacks on the Glenrosa fire, which has so far destroyed at least three homes and forced 10,000 residents to evacuate since erupting on Saturday, according to Rob Moore from the BC Forest Service.
Ground crews have been "hammering" on the blaze's northwest, south and southwest flanks in order to stop the flames from spreading to populated areas, he added.
"Our containment is estimated at 40 per cent," he said. "We're hoping by the end of the day we'll have more than that."
The fire is burning on about 400 hectares of arid land -- an area equivalent to the size of Vancouver's Stanley Park.
So far, fire crews have managed to build an access around the fire's eastern edge, which allowed them to move water trucks into the region, Jenelle Turpin of the West Kelowna emergency operations centre told CTV News Channel.
However, the second fire, which is burning in the Rose Valley Dam, is not at all contained and covers about 150 hectares. It has forced 1,200 people from their homes.
Officials said steep terrain in the area has hampered fire crews, but it appears that its spread has been stopped.
"It's only being attacked right now by water bombing activity," Turpin said. "So that is the big focus there. At least with Glenrosa they're able to get ground crews in. But it still is difficult terrain."
A third fire, in the Terrace Mountain region, has now grown to 850 hectares, due to high temperatures and dry conditions. This fire does not affect any structures.
Officials plan on briefing evacuated families on the status of their homes Monday, according to West Kelowna Fire Rescue's Wayne Schnitzler.
Cause still under investigation
According to Moore, human activity is likely to blame for the fires.
"It could have been accidental," he told The Canadian Press.
"We have no reason to believe they were deliberately set. Given the weather conditions and the fire weather indices, the dryness of the fuels, the ease of ignition there's a number of human-related fire causes."
CTV B.C.'s Kent Molgat said that crews are battling the flames in an attempt to "steer" them away from surrounding communities like Peachland.
"These fires are not only out of control, they are enormous and they are on the doorstep of where a lot of people call home," Molgat told CTV News Channel from Kelowna.
Temperatures in the region are expected to be high on Monday, but it is the wind that is of most concern to fire crews.
Kelowna Fire Chief Rene Blanleil said winds were calm overnight. However, the forecast calls for temperatures to reach 35 Celsius on Monday and winds to gust up to 35 kilometres per hour, he said.
So far, 11,000 people have been told to leave their homes, while another 6,000 are on evacuation alert. Some are staying at a local community centre or in hotels, while others are bunking with friends and family.
Local resident and evacuee Chris LaFace spent Sunday night in a Holiday Inn.
"There are a lot of rumours circling amongst the chaos, but it seems that my house might have been saved due to the work of all the volunteers and everybody fighting the fires," LaFace told Canada AM on Monday.
Officials don't know when residents will be allowed to return home.
The cause of the fires is still under investigation.
- Residents affected by the evacuation order are being asked to report to emergency evacuation reception centres at Royal LePage Place at 2760 Cameron Rd. and Mount Boucherie Secondary School at 2751 Cameron Rd.
- Concerned residents or relatives can call 1-250-469-8490. Residents who are unable to reach evacuation centres are asked to call 778-797-2269.