UPDATE — Aug. 19, 2023:B.C. in state of emergency with thousands out of their homes due to wildfires
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- The B.C. government declared a provincewide state of emergency Friday evening.
- Non-essential travel to central andsoutheast B.C. should be avoided to give firefighters space to fight the fires, says province.
- TheMcDougall Creek wildfirehas destroyed a significantnumber of properties in the Trader Cove area and along Bear Lake Road north of West Kelowna, officials say.
- Lake Okanagan Resort was one of the propertiesconsumed in the fire.
- UBC's Okanagan campus in Kelowna has been toldto evacuate.
- Flights have been cancelled and the airspace closed at Kelowna International Airportto prioritize aerial firefighting.
- Learn more abouthow to find the full list of wildfires, highway closures and evacuation orders and alerts.
Premier David Eby announced a provincialstate of emergency at a news conferenceFriday, urgingBritish Columbians to stay alert, listen to local officials and follow evacuation orders.
"If you get an evacuation order, please leave," Eby said. He also askedpeople to avoid non-essential travel to affected areas.
According to Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma,the number of people under evacuation order in B.C. went from 4,500 to 15,000 in an hour, and 20,000 more peopleare under evacuation alert.
A list of evacuation orders and alerts is posted online byEmergency Info B.C.
WATCH | B.C. under state of emergency: 7 days ago Duration 6:29
State of emergency in B.C. as Kelowna battles volatile wildfire
7 days ago
The announcement cameafter a significant number of homes were destroyedby a fast-burningwildfire in the West Kelowna area, as crews fight through what the B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS) has predicted would be the most challenging days of the provincialfire season, due to gusting winds.
The extreme conditions in the area are not expected to let up over the next 36 hours, and fires across the province may see significant growth, provincial officials say.
More than 2,400 properties are under an evacuation order, and more than 4,800 properties are under an evacuation alert due to theencroaching McDougall Creek wildfire, which grew more than a hundredfold —from 64 hectares to 6,800 hectares (68 square kilometres) —in just 24 hours.
More than 700 residents from eight senior care homes in the area are also being transferred to safe locations.
Interior Health says it hasestablished a phone line where families can receive updates on the location of their loved ones.
WATCH | Residents filmapproaching flames from West Kelowna fire: 8 days ago Duration 0:58
Smoke and flames loom over West Kelowna, B.C. as evacuations underway
8 days ago
Kelowna has a population of approximately150,000 residents, while West Kelowna has about 36,000.
Of the 380 active fires in the province, 160 of them remain outof control, and more than a dozen of those are either highly visibleor a threat to a community.
Around3,400 firefighters are deployed across the province, with dozens from other jurisdictions, such as Mexico and Costa Rica.
Evacuation orders issued, expandedFriday
An evacuation alert has been issued for properties in Lake Country,a community approximately 25 kilometresnorth ofKelownadue to a fire in the area. A number of properties have been ordered to evacuate.
A new evacuation order was also issued late Friday afternoon for numerous properties on the West Bank First Nation reserve.
Evacuation ordershad earlier beenissued for the Clifton Road Northand McKinley neighbourhoodsnorth of downtown Kelowna, as well as for properties surroundingHidden Lake and Still Pond —which were expandedFriday morning for properties in the Shayler area and properties in the Glenmore Road area.
'The fire chief's worst nightmare'
"It was a devastating[Thursday] night, probably the most challenging of my career,"said West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund during a news conference Friday afternoon.
"We fought hard last night to protect ourcommunity.
"We fought 100 years worth of fires all in one night."
Brolund said some emergency responders were trapped because they had to rescue residents who chose not to leave their properties despite being under evacuation order.
"That's the fire chief's worst nightmare," he said.
WATCH | West Kelownafire chief on toughest night of his career: 7 days ago Duration 7:23
'A fire chief's worst nightmare': West Kelowna homes lost during 'devastating night'
7 days ago
Brolund andKelowna Fire Chief Travis Whiting said no lives were lost despite the danger firefighters and residents faced.
Whiting also said no structuresin his community had burned down, but both he and Brolund warned about embers being carried by the wind, which is also fanning the aggressive fire.
"We're going to be throwing everything we can at this fire," said Whiting.
Fire 'came right to our doorstep'
Long-time West Kelowna resident Steven Francis was one of the thousands evacuated Thursday night. He said he'sfaced evacuation orders before, but the intensity of the McDougall Creek fire is unlike anything he's experienced.
"It came right to our doorstep, with all its rage and fury and power. And Ibroke down," he said.
"I had a moment, and maybe I'm having one right now."
Cliff Chapman, director of provincial operations for the BCWS, described the last 24 hours as one of a handful of days that will be "engraved" in his memory from his two-decade career.
"It was avery, very stressful evening for everyone in that area," Chapman said, adding the fire continues to burn aggressivelythanks to strong winds that are expected to continue through the night,into Saturday.
'Now is not the time to ignore an evacuation order'
Chapman also addressed thosewho defied the evacuation ordersThursday night, saying they put the lives ofpolice and firefighters at risk.
"Now is not the time to ignore an evacuation order," he said, addingthe fire is moving at a speed rarely seen in B.C.
Police and provincial officials areurging anyone in the area not to use boats to attempt to access the evacuation zoneand to keep drones out of the skies.
"Drones are a significant hazard to crews fighting fires. It is illegal and irresponsible to fly them near fires," Minister of Forests Bruce Ralston said.
Significant losses, but some properties saved
Earlier Friday, officials said properties had been destroyed in theTrader Cove areaand Bear Lake Road north of West Kelowna.
Officials did not provide an exact number and said conditions would have to improve before a more thorough assessment could be made. Brolund said the losses were significant, but firefighters did manage to save properties.
Among those destroyed arethe historic Lake Okanagan Resort.Chief Keith Crow of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band also said Fridaythe fire had destroyed at least one property in his community, and a further 17 other properties were under threat in a subdivision.
Evacuees can refer to aninteractive mapand search by address to find out how individual homes and businesses are affected.
The B.C. RCMP says it is deploying additional resources to help secure areas that have been evacuated due to encroaching wildfires.
Officers will helpwith door-to-door evacuations, securing evacuation routes and conducting patrols in evacuated areas to "secure properties from criminal activity.''
They alsosay officers will only leave an evacuated area if the wildfire threatens their safety.
Where evacuees should go
The regional district is asking evacuees to contactfriends and family as hotels, motels and other tourism operators in the area are at capacity.
For those in Kelowna, areception centre has been set up at the Salvation Army at1480Sutherland Dr.
Evacuees from West Kelowna who live south of Traders Cove cango to the Information Centre at Royal LePage Place at2760 Cameron Rd.
For those north of Traders Cove, areception centre has been openedatKal Tire Placeat 3445 43rd Ave.in Vernon, around 60 kilometres north of West Kelowna.
There have been long lines at some of the centres, and officials are asking evacuees to be patient.All evacuees are asked to register through a provincial portal.
A public information line is also available at 250-469-8490or 1-877-569-8490.
Emergency Management MinisterBowinn Ma has said the wildfire servicehas "significant resources'' on the West Kelowna fire,buturgedeveryone in the region to prepare in case they are ordered to leave.
West Kelowna's Brolund said he anticipated alerts related to the McDougallCreek fire to become orders.
"This is the real deal," he said about the fire's dangers.
WATCH | Timelapse of McDougall Creek wildfire captured by resident: 8 days ago Duration 0:11
Wildfire smoke rises above West Kelowna
8 days ago
Multiple local states of emergency
The Central Okanagan Emergency Operation Centre issued a local state of emergency Thursday because of the fire.
The City of Kelownahas also declared a state of emergency, as firecrews responded to fires on the east side of Okanagan Lake. Chapman with the BCWS said Friday that officials have not yet confirmed whether those wildfires were a result of the McDougall Creek fire jumping across the lake or if they were new, unconnected fires.
DriveBC says a travel advisory is in effect for Highway 97 through Kelowna and West Kelowna for a stretch ofmore than 60 kilometres between the communities of Coldstream andPeachlandbecause of the wildfires.
Drivers are being asked to avoid the area and be prepared for short-notice closures.
More stories on wildfires:
- Hundreds of properties and recreational sites in the Fraser Valley and Thompson Nicola regions have been ordered to evacuate or prepare to do so as the KookipiCreek wildfire spreads.
- Officials are asking the public to be prepared but remain calmas winds fan the Horsethief Creek fire burning a few kilometres west of Invermere, B.C.
- Get the news you need without restrictions. Download ourfree CBC News App.
Anyone placed under an evacuation order should leave the area immediately.
Evacuation centres have been set up throughout the province to assist anyone evacuating from a community under threat from a wildfire.
To find the centre closest to you, visit theEmergencyInfoBCwebsite.
Evacuees are encouraged to register withEmergency Support Services online, whether or not they access services at an evacuation centre.
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If you've been affected by the B.C. wildfires and want to share your story, email@example.com.