As fire near Westwold grows, the BC Wildfire Service is asking people to follow evacuation orders

As the wildfire burning southwest of Westwold continues to grow, the BC Wildfire Service is urging people to follow evacuation alerts and orders issued by the regional government.

Evacuation orders have already been issued for 41 properties in the area, with an even larger area put on alert as a result of the White Rock Lake fire, burning about 15 kilometres south of Westwold.

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"We're certainly looking out for people's lives in this case, and that's why they're in play, and we would ask people to please respect those orders and alerts," said Mike McCulley, a BC Wildfire Service fire information officer assigned to the White Rock Lake fire.

Some residents affected by the evacuation alerts and orders have expressed frustration that air tankers aren't attacking the blaze, but McCulley said the area isn't amenable to air attack.

"Not sure what the future holds, but right now, there is no chance we are going to run air tankers through that drainage," he told KTW.

McCulley said that while the call is ultimately up to pilots, from an operations standpoint, the terrain is too steep, the valley too windy and the air too smoky.

"We're not going to risk anybody's life, including our pilots, to go in there. The fact of the matter is we wouldn't get close enough to the ground anyway for it to have any effect," he said.

The fire's size was last updated by the wildfire service at 3,000 hectares in size, but satellite data that shows fire hotspots suggests it may now have burned twice as much land.

McCulley said Monday afternoon saw more growth on the fire, and he said that growth will continue.

"Unfortunately, we'll probably see that fire move up the valley," he said.

But despite the lack of air tanker support, fire crews are still attacking from the ground.

"What we are doing is everything we can from the ground. That includes sending structural protection experts in there to make assessments, and set up structural protection on homes where it makes sense," he said.

McCulley said the wildfire service is also employing the use local fire department trucks, who he said will be monitoring needed areas overnight.

"We'll have them patrolling in the night, trying to manage hotspots and protecting life and property wherever they can," he said.

McCulley also expects ground resources will increase in capacity "very quickly" in the coming days.

© Kamloops This Week



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