Skip to main content

Dozens of homes lost as wicked winds fan flames across B.C.'s Southern Interior

Vancouver -

The monstrous White Rock Lake fire, burning out of control for over a month, has devoured dozens of homes in B.C.'s Southern Interior.

The Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre estimates 50 to 60 homes have been destroyed in Killiney Beach and Ewings Landing.

The Okanagan Indian Band also confirmed significant damage on its reserve but could not immediately provide the number of homes and other buildings destroyed.

Winds whipping up to 70 km/h caused a number of fires to flare up significantly prompting highway closures and evacuation alerts and orders in a number of communities.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said recent developments in many of B.C.'s wildfires have forced hundreds from their homes, and put thousands more on alert.

"The wildfire danger throughout much of the Interior continues to be extremely serious, and we are in for a challenging fight in the coming days," he said.

"Given the conditions we're seeing in our communities and on our highways, I want to be clear: Do not travel to fire-affected areas for non-essential reasons."

The July Creek wildfire burned ferociously near the Coquihalla Highway, forcing officials to shut it down between Hope and Merritt Sunday night.

Officials quickly evacuated the community of Lower Nicola Sunday, with residents initially being given 24 hours to leave.

A short time later, RCMP and volunteers began going door-to-door telling people they had to get out immediately as the raging Lytton Creek fire, driven by high winds, began to threaten the community.

“By the time I packed up and I was ready to go, the guys came in the yard and said, 'It’s immediate. It’s mandatory. You got to get out now,'” said Ivan Chypyha, who made his way to Merritt.

That’s also where Madison Calder went when told she had to get out of Lower Nicola right away.

“We could actually see the glow coming over the mountain so that was quite scary, too, like leaving and seeing in your rear view mirror the glow coming over the mountain,” she said. “I’m scared. I’ve got a baby, and stuff, so it’s nerve-wracking thinking about losing the house.”

Merritt may not be a safe refuge for long, as the entire community of nearly 8,000 people is on evacuation alert, with fires threatening the town on multiple fronts.

The mayor urged people to get ready in case the call comes suddenly.

“I understand there’s a few that have left the community already,” Linda Brown said. “They don’t want to be in a community that’s on alert. And I understand that.”

In West Kelowna, a wildfire that sparked Sunday afternoon grew ferociously, spitting ash and smoke high into the air as it loomed over the community of Glenrosa, damaging some homes.

“I saw a bunch of flames in the backyard. Trees were on fire so we got out there. Grabbed all the stuff and went,” said Nick Gerdovich.

Some rain combined with lower winds helped firefighters on Monday but not enough to really reduce the threat posed by the biggest infernos.

As the Southern Interior burns, local and provincial officials continue to urge tourists to go home to make room for evacuees.

“We have no accommodations for them. All we could do was send them through to Chilliwack and that in itself was traumatic,” said Brown. “We need hotel space so we are urging all tourists to leave so that we can have available space for evacuees.” Top Stories

Stay Connected