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1,500 buildings assessed by Canada Task Force 1 in West Kelowna, Shuswap

The Vancouver-based disaster response team Canada Task Force 1 has completed 1,506 rapid damage assessments in the wildfire-ravaged West Kelowna and North Shuswap areas, allowing residents to find out if their homes are safe to return to.

The team assessed 650 buildings in West Kelowna and 856 in the Shuswap area since their deployment last Sunday, Eric Grootendorst, Captain of operations told CTV News. “That's door to door. That's filling out a form for every address,” he said.

The team of 20 wrapped up work on Friday, and since then numbers of structures destroyed, damaged or saved have been flowing in through local governments.

At least 168 structures have been destroyed or damaged by the Bush Creek East wildfire in the Shuswap, but officials noted that there are still active fires in the region where assessments couldn’t be carried out.

At an information briefing Sunday, director of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District emergency operations centre Derek Sutherland said residents who lost their homes will get calls from staff starting Monday to discuss next steps. He also said the district will be opening a resiliency centre in Salmon Arm to “to support the displaced residents now and well into the future.”

In the Kelowna area, the number of structures lost or damaged is nearly 200.

Grootendorst described the scene on the ground in the two regions as “pure devastation,” with crews encountering neighbourhoods with “pieces of structure strewn all over the place.”

But for every home lost, many, many more survived, and there have been no deaths reported in the Okanagan or Shuswap regions.

“It's a very tough job for our crews to go through, for anybody really, to go through and see the devastation that's left behind when these wildfires go through. But, you know, what is obvious and the solace that our members take is that so many structures were saved,” Grootendorst said.

He said fire crews have done a “phenomenal job” in keeping the flames away from homes, in many cases stopping the fire right at the doorstep.

“As hard as it is to see all these images, I think we also have to look at the hard work that was done and the amazing work of fire crews that were in the area that saved so many, because it could have been so much worse,” he continued.

That work is on display as thousands of people are slowly returning home.

Over the past few days, all evacuation orders in the City of Kelowna and Lake Country on the east side of Okanagan Lake have been downgraded to alerts, and orders in West Kelowna and Westbank First Nation continue to drop.

Around 2,700 properties remain under evacuation order in the Regional District of Central Okanagan, down from 10,700 last week.

North in the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, orders have been downgraded to alerts in Sorrento, but around 3,700 properties are still evacuated in the area.

The wildfires burning on the east side of Okanagan Lake are now classified as “being held,” but the McDougall Creek wildfire is still out of control at 12,600 hectares.

Meanwhile, the Bush Creek East wildfire in the North Shuswap is burning at 43,000 hectares, and BC Wildfire Service information officer Mike McCulley said a warming and drying trend continuing through Monday could fuel increased fire behaviour, and smoke will be visible from communities.

Sutherland said the increased behaviour is being monitored “really closely” and it’s “nothing to worry about right now.”

McCulley added that cooler weather and precipitation is in the forecast for Tuesday, which is “great news” for crews. Top Stories


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