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Structures burned, people trapped as parts of B.C.'s Okanagan ordered to evacuate


Structures have burned and emergency responders were trapped Friday after the fast-moving McDougall Creek wildfire grew significantly overnight.

Just before 1 a.m. Friday, a state of emergency was declared in the City of Kelowna and residents in the Clifton Road North and McKinley neighbourhoods were ordered to evacuate their homes as spot fires flared in the city.

"Due to unpredictable fire behaviour, it is critical that all residents evacuate for their safety and the safety of first responders in the area," officials said in a statement Friday.

At a news conference Friday afternoon, BC Wildfire Service director of operations Cliff Chapman said officials cannot confirm whether the fire activity on the east side of Okanagan Lake is the result of the McDougall blaze jumping the lake or if it was a new, separate fire.

Regardless, a growing number of residents on both sides of the lake were placed on evacuation orders and alerts throughout the day Friday. 

"(Residents) should prepare to be away from their home for an extended period of time, make arrangements for pets and pack essential items such as medicines and important documents," authorities said.

The City of West Kelowna also declared a local state of emergency due to the McDougall Creek wildfire. Authorities confirmed Friday there has been "some structural loss" in West Kelowna. 

Photos posted on social media show the Lake Okanagan Resort engulfed in flames. The historic landmark has stood on the waterfront since the late 1970s and served as both a 217 room hotel and a permanent residence with 48 condominium units. 

Fire chief Jason Brolund said at a news conference Friday that officials couldn’t provide an exact number of structures lost yet. However, he confirmed the city’s fire hall, school, dam and new, $75-million water treatment plant were saved.


Thousands of properties are under evacuation orders and thousands more are under alerts. In the early afternoon, those on the University of British Columbia's Okanagan campus in Kelowna were ordered to leave.

The Central Okanagan Regional District maintains an interactive map showing the latest evacuation orders and alerts. Residents can also search for their address. The map is embedded below and a full-size version can be found here

"All current orders and alerts remain in place and the public are reminded to stay out of the evacuation area as they are active fire zones," authorities said Friday.

Late Thursday, officials estimated the McDougall Creek wildfire had grown to 11 square kilometres since being discovered Tuesday evening. As of Friday, the BC Wildfire service estimated it had grown to six times that size, reaching 6,800 hectares, or 68 square kilometres.

Officials have warned that fire behaviour could be fast and unpredictable over the coming days, due to a mix of tinder-dry conditions exacerbated by the recent heat wave, forecasted gusting winds and dry lightning.

Brolund said this is one of the biggest fire fights he’s ever been a part of.

“It’s like 100 years of firefighting all at once in one night,” he told reporters Friday. Officials say about 80 personnel spent the night battling the blaze, including members of the BC Wildfire Service.

People are being urged to pay close attention to evacuation alerts and follow orders.

“We had people trapped last night, that’s a fire chief’s worst nightmare,” said Jason Brolund. “Those emergency responders were trapped because they were rescuing members of the public who chose not to leave.”

Concern spread on social media Friday afternoon following reports that a Code Orange – indicating a mass casualty event – had been called at Kelowna General Hospital, but officials confirmed medical staff are only bracing for the possibility of an influx of patients.

"It's preparatory at this time should Code Orange be needed, meaning more casualties coming into the hospital than can be expected," said Ian Cunnings, senior director of response operations for the Ministry of Emergency Management. "There's nothing to indicate that could happen, but they're prepping for it just in case."

Kelowna General was among several hospitals that activated Code Orange protocols following the bus crash on the Okanagan Connector that injured dozens of people on Christmas Eve.


As a result of the fire, a 14-kilometre section of Highway 97 between Kelowna and West Kelowna was closed overnight, according to DriveBC.

The service also issued a travel advisory for the area between Hawkes Street and Waters Road, 11 kilometres south of Coldstream to Peachland, due to evacuation orders in effect.

As of 10 a.m. Friday, the airspace surrounding Kelowna International Airport was closed to support aerial firefighting efforts.

“The priority is the safety of our community and to allow access to the airspace required by aerial firefighters,” reads YLW’s website. “We appreciate travellers’ patience with this evolving situation.” 

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Andrew Weichel Top Stories

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