BC Wildfire Services incident commander Mark Healey said Thursday, Aug. 12, the White Rock Lake wildfire will grow. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)

Catastrophic White Rock Lake wildfire will grow: incident commander

Heat wave, winds continue to challenge suppression efforts; more evacuation orders reissued

  • Aug. 12, 2021 12:00 a.m.

The White Rock Lake wildfire will grow, BC Wildfire Services incident commander Mark Healey said.

The province’s third heat wave of the summer and wind are working against the more than 330 firefighting personnel combating the blaze that has grown to an estimated 58,000 hectares, Healey said.

“This is a catastrophic event. This isn’t just a wildfire,” Healey told media at the Vernon fire camp Thursday, Aug. 12. “This is something that is, I think, new for everybody.”

Fire activity has increased across most of the fire, BCWS said, and smoke will be seen in the area of Naswhito Creek on the southeast flank. A finger of the fire on the south flank moved 1.5 kilometres south overnight and is now around four kilometres north of Fintry.

The Regional District of Central Okanagan reissued an evacuation order for the Fintry area Thursday afternoon for residents south of the Valley of the Sun through to La Casa. Residents have until 2 p.m. today to evacuate.

“The fire behaviour that we are seeing out there is beyond extreme, in my opinion,” he said. “This fire will grow, for sure. It will grow and we take it day by day.”

Healey said the fire is “literally in people’s backyards,” along Westside Road and “has been for a number of days,” but ensures structure protection units and personnel are on scene 24-7.

Currently, 195 wildland firefighters, 119 structure protection personnel, 15 helicopters, 15 danger tree fallers and 73 pieces of heavy equipment are assigned to the fire.

Criticism saying the government and BC Wildfire Services didn’t do enough when the fire was discovered July 13 at 10 hectares is concerning, said Healey.

“When I hear that not enough is being done, that hits me in the heart,” he said. “It not only hits me, but it hits every firefighter on the ground.”

His crews, he said, are young millennials “who live on social media.”

“They’re not taking this well, the message that gets out there. I worry about them for that reason,” he said. “This is the hardest thing to hear when we work extremely long hours over an extremely long summer.”

Evacuation orders are in effect for communities in four regional districts and the Okanagan Indian Band. More are on alert.

The City of Armstrong, Kamloops and Village of Chase have rescinded alerts.

READ MORE: Evacuation orders re-issued for Westside residents due to White Rock Lake wildfire

READ MORE: Person found torching weeds prompts public reminder, warning from Salmon Arm fire chief

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