McDougall Creek fire prompts more alerts as wind kicks up flames

Strong winds fanned flames from the McDougall Creek wildfire Tuesday night, prompting new evacuation alerts in the Okanagan.

Thousands more properties are now on notice as crews prepare for more aggressive fire behaviour in the West Kelowna area.

BC Wildfire Service fire information officer Sarah Hall says sustained winds of 10 to 25 kilometres an hour are driving the fire toward the Glenrosa neighbourhood and the Powers Creek drainage.

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Hall tells CityNews crews are doing their best to fight the fire from wherever they can. However, she admits location has created challenges, with the area around Powers Creek described as a steep canyon.

“The fire is on top of that canyon and that steep and inoperable terrain, so it’s very challenging for heavy equipment to be on that side,” she explained Wednesday.

“One of the big things we really want to ensure is first responder and crew safety. Right now, there’s only one access and egress route and we really want to ensure that we have some safe operations for our fire-line crews.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, the McDougall Creek fire, which is still considered out of control, was an estimated 12,634 hectares. The cause remains under investigation.

“There has been an influx of personnel in the Glenrosa area just due to the nature of where Glenrosa is located, just south of that drainage,” Hall said.

“We do have some rappel crews that are working in the area to construct some helipads just north of the Powers Creek drainage. This will help create more access and egress opportunities for personnel as well.”

Weather concerns

Some rain did fall Tuesday night around parts of B.C. In the area of the McDougall Creek fire, Hall says about one to five millilitres were recorded.

She notes temperatures have dropped and cloud cover has helped provide some relief from the sun, but says there’s been no break from the wind just yet.

“We are looking at some increased temperatures this weekend, so Friday and Saturday, so we could see some more stable conditions there in regards to less gusting winds. But, of course, that would bring more of a warming and drying trend over the weekend, which could influence fire behaviour,” Hall said.

The BC Wildfire Service is reminding people that air restrictions in the vicinity of the McDougall Creek fire remain in place, meaning things like drones are prohibited.

“Just a reminder that anyone interfering with wildfire control efforts, which is including flying drones or UAVs, can face penalties up to $100,000 or even up to one year in jail. It really does hinder our wildfire efforts and it does put our first responders at risk when we have these occurrences in a wildfire area. It also hinders operations when we have to ground our aerial resources due to safety concerns,” Hall explained.

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