West Kelowna  

McDougall Creek fire no longer considered 'Wildfire of Note'

No longer 'Wildfire of Note'

One of the most destructive wildfires to hit the Okanagan is no longer considered a “Wildfire of Note.”

Saturday, the BC Wildfire Service removed the Wildfire of Note tag from the McDougall Creek fire on its online wildfire map, after the fire was considered “held” last Wednesday.

A fire is considered a Wildfire of Note if it is "especially visible or poses a threat to public safety."

The McDougall Creek wildfire was sparked in the hills above West Kelowna on Aug. 15. A small plume of smoke was barely visible from downtown Kelowna that afternoon, when it was less than a hectare in size. But strong winds from a passing cold front two days later caused the fire to grow rapidly.

In less than 48 hours, the fire had torn through a number of West Kelowna neighbourhoods, destroying homes on close to 200 properties and forcing the evacuation of roughly 10,000 properties.

While the strong winds had largely passed by Aug. 19, the fire continued to burn, causing many smoky days in the Okanagan. Fire crews have worked tirelessly for nearly six weeks to fully extinguish the blaze, which grew to a size of 13,970 hectares.

Last week, the BC Wildfire Service declared the fire as held, which means it's “not likely to spread beyond predetermined boundaries.” Additionally, evacuation orders for all remaining homes were also lifted Thursday.

While the threat from the fire has largely passed, there remains 82 firefighters on the fire, working to extinguish hot spots and demobilize equipment.

Rain has been falling in the area over the past couple days, but the fire continues to burn.

“Nearby communities can still expect to see smoke within the perimeter over the coming weeks,” the BCWS says. “This is common with large wildfires and will continue until significant rainfall or snowfall.”

The BCWS still has not stated the cause of the destructive fire, and it's still listed as “under investigation.”

An area restriction remains in place for most of the fire area. A map of the restricted area can be found here. Additionally, Rose Valley, Raymer Bay, Stephens Coyote Ridge and Traders Cove regional parks remain closed due to hazards left by the fire.


West Kelowna fire chief recruiting after whirlwind UN trip

Fire chief has whirlwind ride

If you had asked West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund what his life would be like two months ago, his answer would have been very different than it is today.

"It's not something that I ever expected would come out of this and it's not something that I'm looking for. I also never expected to be at the UN."

Brolund just returned from New York City where he was asked to address the Sustainable Development Goals Summit 2023 at the United Nations in New York.

Brolund says he got the chance to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he toured the McDougall Creek wildfire on Aug. 25.

"It was a request from the Prime Minister and, of course, I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to share the story," Brolund said.

Brolund could probably get elected for just about any public office he wanted in the Okanagan after receiving praise for how he communicated with the public during the McDougall Creek wildfire.

"The fact that Trudeau would come to our fire hall, or the Vancouver Canucks would come, or that I'd be at the United Nations, I mean, these are all things that you just don't think about, but they're all such boosts to our department and our community. You know, for me to be able to give that speech at the UN on the day that the evacuation orders and alerts are lifted, and the fire is declared 'held' in our community was a pretty neat bit of timing," Brolund said.

During his talk at the UN, Brolund emphasized the need to try and get ahead of wildfires as the climate changes.

"I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity to go on the world stage and speak to the challenge and say, you know, we need to be thinking bigger than we are today.

"I don't know that there is a number that's big enough. We get $200,000 a year now," he said, referring to wildfire mitigation funding.

"I could easily put a million dollars a year to work and that's five times what we get but we'll continue to make use of every single dollar."

The other unintended benefit is all of the exposure and goodwill should help this year's recruitment program.

"It's timely, we need people to start in January, to be ready for next year's wildfire season," says Brolund.

A recruitment information session is planned for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Glenrosa Firehall Station 34, 3399 Gates Road, if you're interested in learning more about what life as a firefighter looks like.

Landscape around Rose Valley reservoir left scarred by McDougall Creek fire

Landscape left scarred

The McDougall Creek wildfire is now considered “held” and all evacuees are able to return home. But the landscape above West Kelowna has been drastically changed.

The large fire was first discovered on Aug. 15, but strong winds from a passing cold front caused the blaze to explode in size on Aug. 17 and 18, destroying whole neighbourhoods in its path and forcing the evacuation of about 10,000 properties.

More than a month later, as temperatures fall and the days become shorter, the danger from the fire has largely subsided, but it's left a significant scar on many of the community's popular recreation areas.

Around the Rose Valley reservoir, where there's many hiking and biking trails, large patches of the forest are now charred, although some greenery appears to have avoided the flames.

The fire made its way right down to the water's edge in some areas, and also burned on both sides of some parts of the trail leading up to the reservoir.

With the fire being declared “held” last week, the City of West Kelowna says staff haven't had the opportunity to assess the Rose Valley reservoir area to determine long-term impacts.

While access to the reservoir is now open to the public, after the BC Wildfire Service reduced the size of its area restriction on Sept. 15, the Regional District of Central Okanagan's Rose Valley Regional Park, located on the east side of the reservoir, remains closed due to hazards left by the fire.

“Until those hazards are actually identified and addressed, the park will remain closed,” said Wayne Darlington, RDCO Park Planning & Capital Projects manager.

“Maybe at some point in time, we're hopeful we can get part of it open, but we'll have to see how things plays out here after these hazard assessments are completed.”

Additionally, Raymer Bay, Stephens Coyote Ridge and Traders Cove regional parks remain closed due to hazards left by the fire.

“Within our parks, what we're seeing right now for the most part is it's more of our natural areas that have been heavily impacted,” Darlington said.

“For instance, a lot of damaged trees as a result of fire, geotechnical hazards with rockfall, potentially hydrophobic soils, things like that that we need to look at. Our trails are also impacted as a result of that, minor damage to some signage.”

He noted that playgrounds, picnic shelters and washrooms at Traders Cove and Raymer Bay regional parks survived the fire.

Darlington says he has no estimated timeline of when these parks may be reopened to the public.


Jillian Harris releases second cookbook

New book by Jillian Harris

Jillian Harris has had an eventful summer.

Not only did she have to evacuate her West Kelowna farm because of the McDougall Lake wildfire, she’s also been busy promoting a new book.

Fraiche Food, Fuller Hearts is the follow up to Fraiche Food, Full Hearts, which Harris also co-wrote with fellow influencer, dietician and her cousin Tori Wesszer.

The recipes are “inspired by cozy memories of those sweet, simple days enjoying wholesome meals together with their large close-knit family,” says a synopsis from publisher Penguin Random House Canada.

The cookbook features beloved classics with a modern, often plant-forward twist “inspired by the smart hacks their moms and granny used to whip up memorable, easy-to-make meals.”

You’ll find recipes like Tropical Tofu Bowls, Carrot Cake Breakfast Cookies and Baked Crispy Cauliflower Sandwiches alongside Bear Bread and Lazy Daisy Cake.

Last month Harris posted a series of Instagram Stories about her experiences during the height of the McDougall Creek wildfire, talking about how she had to evacuate her home and watching as others lost theirs to the flames.

“Our beautiful little community here in the Okanagan and surrounding areas have experienced a tragic event and heartbreaking losses over the last week,” she wrote in an Aug. 25, 2023 post.

She went on to say, “Watching our community on fire is nothing short of tragic. Feelings of fear as the fire inches closer to your home, panic, helplessness, and then the aftermath of heartbreak and even guilt knowing many have lost their only home and ours was spared.”

She also encouraged her Instagram followers to help those impacted by the fires by donating to Mamas for Mamas. Harris is an ambassador for the Kelowna-based charitable organization.

The hardcover edition of Fraiche Food, Fuller Hearts retails for $45 and it’s currently #12 on Amazon Canada’s best sellers list for cookbooks, food & wine.

West Kelowna advocated for 'long-overdue' investments at this week's UBCM convention

Vital investments needed

The City of West Kelowna spent much of its time at the Union of BC Municipalities convention in Vancouver lobbying provincial ministers for "vital and long-overdue investments" in the community.

Mayor Gord Milsom, a number of councillors and city officials met with Premier David Eby seeking increased investment in the city as well as advocating for a number of top priority issues, including:

  • Investments in all housing types
  • Reducing the timeline to provide power redundancy
  • Increasing healthcare services and facilities
  • Addressing the deficit of provincially-funded RCMP members
  • Addressing Highway 97 corridor improvements

Officials also voiced concerns over a lack of ongoing investments during meetings with nine provincial ministers over the week.

They voiced concerns over a lack of investments in housing, a lack of mental health and addiction facilities, a continued deficit of eight provincially funded RCMP members and the need to increase wildfire prevention, management and recovery funding.

Delegations from surrounding communities of Peachland, Westbank First Nation and the RDCO also joined in conversations with the minister of Energy over the lack of progress in providing a redundant source of power to the greater Westside area.

"As part of our 2022/2026 strategic priorities, our council escalated our advocacy with the B.C. government to address the lack of appropriate provincial investments that are desperately needed across the greater Westside," said Milsom.

"West Kelowna is the youngest city and the third largest by population in the Okanagan, yet provincial investments remain either absent or progress remains extremely slow. This simply must change.

"The B.C. government clearly heard from our council and from our good neighbours that our governments are united and will remain vigilant to receive the long-overdue provincial investments that come with rapid growth.

"West Kelowna has come to the table to support our growing community but we must have, and we expect, the B.C. government to do the same."

Milsom says he was encouraged with meetings with Eby and provincial cabinet ministers and hopes to see some "rapid results."

Boil water notice downgraded in West Kelowna

Water notice downgraded

West Kelowna has downgraded the boil water notice for the Rose Valley-Lakeview water system to a water quality advisory.

Under a water quality advisory, children, the elderly and those with weakened immunity must use water brought to a rolling boil for one minute or more, or seek an alternative safe source, for brushing teeth, drinking, making baby formula and ice, preparing food and beverages and washing fruits and vegetables and dishes.

View the water quality map here to confirm if your property is in the affected service area.

The bulk filling station at Shannon Lake and Asquith Roads provides a safe, alternative source of drinking water. Customers can use the touch-free filling station free during the advisory.

Water plant work to close West Kelowna's Parkinson Road next week

Water plant road closure

The ongoing work to connect the new Rose Valley Water Treatment plant to users will include a three day closure of Parkinson Road (upper Westlake Road) next week.

Crews will be installing a storm-water tank and completing the watermain crossing to connect to the new plant.

Drivers will have to detour via Bear Creek Road and Westside Road to get around the closure that is scheduled from Wednesday, Sept. 27 to Saturday, Sept. 30. The detour will add 10-15 minutes to the average commute.

The closure will also affect bus routes along Parkinson Road. Check with School District 23 and BC Transit for the details.

The contractor will have message boards on site 72 hours in advance of the road closure – one each at Parkinson, Bear Creek, and Westlake roads – as a reminder to motorists.

While they will try to complete the work during the allotted time, the City of West Kelowna notes the schedule could be impacted with weather and other factors.

Cyclists and pedestrians are encourages to find alternative routes as well because construction crews will not be able to guarantee access.

The new water plant was one of the municipal assets that was designated for structure protection from the McDougall Creek wildfire. While there are concerns the fire may have delayed the project the city says construction is still expected to be done later this fall.

"We plan to provide customers with a completion date as soon as it’s confirmed. Please follow the project webpage... to receive updates," said the city in a statement to Castanet on Wednesday.

Conservation officers set trap after bear spotted at Glenrosa school playground

Bear trap set in Glenrosa

The BC Conservation Officer Service has set a bear trap along Aberdeen Road in Glenrosa.

They’re hoping to capture a bear that was seen wandering the grounds of Webber Road Elementary School as children were arriving at school.

“We had numerous calls about a bear in garbage as well as two sightings this morning right in the school playground,” said conservation officer Glen Small.

He points out that since May, the BCCOS has received 97 calls for conflicts with bears within West Kelowna.

“The Glenrosa area tends to be our higher call volume area just because of the ravine that runs up that way. The bears use it as a travel corridor.”

Small says there’s no guarantee the trap will be successful because there are a lot of other unnatural attractants right now, such as garbage, bird seed and ripe fruit left on or under trees.

“That tends to be our biggest conflict in the fall within the Okanagan. The fruit is the biggest issue in the fall, and then second would be the garbage.”

Bear sightings usually escalates in the fall as the animals venture far and wide looking for high calorie foods to bulk up on before going into hibernation. That’s why it’s even more important at this time of year to remove attractants like those ripe apples, pears, plums and other sweet treats that draw wildlife to your yards.

To report a human-wildlife conflict contact the RAPP line.

McDougall Creek evacuation orders rescinded Thursday

All evacuees returning home

More than a month after evacuation orders were first issued due to the McDougall Creek wildfire, all residents can now return home.

Thursday afternoon, Central Okanagan Emergency Operations announced all remaining evacuation orders have been lifted in, except for a small piece of property surrounding 550 Westside Road, near Raymer Bay.

The remaining order does not involve a residence. The EOC says this property remains under an order due to remaining environmental hazards and not because of fire.

Additionally, all evacuation alerts have now been rescinded, except for those on Bear Creek Road, Petterson Road, Dougmac Road and Rose Valley Road, along with properties between 1111 Westside Road S and 539 Westside Road S.

A map showing the remaining order and alerts can be found here.

An area restriction remains in place for much of the wildfire area. A map of the most recent restricted area can be found here.

The downgrading of evacuation orders comes a day after the BC Wildfire Service declared the fire – which damaged or destroyed close to 200 properties during its massive growth back on Aug. 17 and 18 – was finally declared “held."

At the fire's peak, roughly 10,000 properties in the area were evacuated.

This doesn't mean the fire is out though, and crews continue to work on mop up activities, conduct patrols and extinguish hotspots. Crews are also continuing the demobilization of non-essential equipment.

“While holding the fire is an important milestone, there is still much work ahead for crews and partner agencies. Multiple hazards are still present in areas where firefighters are working or where fire damage has occurred,” the BC Wildfire Service says.

“You can expect to see smoke in the perimeter, this is common with large fires and will continue until significant rain or snow. If you see smoke from well within a fire’s perimeter and the area is surrounded by black, burned material, this is typically not a concern.”

Evacuation orders remain in place for eight properties near the Glen Lake wildfire, burning about six kilometres from Peachland.

Nearly 4,000 customers affected by Westside power outage

Westside power restored


BC Hydro says power has now been restored to the remaining 107 customers in the Trader's Cover area.

The area was part of a widespread outage that affected 3,894 customers from Lakeview Heights to north of Trader's Cove.

Power initially went out just after 10 a.m.

BC Hydro says equipment failure was the cause of the outage.

UPDATE 1:15 p.m.

Only 107 properties, most within the Trader's Cove area remain without power.

Initially, power went off for nearly 3,900 customers shortly after 10 a.m. Thursday.

The outage affected much of Lakeview Heights and Rose Valley as well as properties along Westside Road.

The remaining properties without power are north of Dougmac Road and west of Westside Road.

BC Hydro attributed the outage to equipment failure.

Power is expected to be restored by 3:30 p.m.

UPDATE 11:55 a.m.

Power has been restored to much of an affected area of the Westside.

BC Hydro says only 207 customers north of Brens Road are now affected.

Initially, 3,894 customers, including much of Lakeview Heights and Rose Valley lost power shortly after 10 a.m.

Those areas within the City of West Kelowna have now had their power restored.

Those still affected include much of Trader's Cove.

BC Hydro says crews are on the way.

ORIGINAL 11 a.m.

Power is out for 3,894 customers on the Westside.

The widespread outage includes a large area affected by the McDougall Creek wildfire.

Information provided by BC Hydro show power is out over a large portion of Lakeview Heights and Rose Valley, stretching north past Traders Cove.

Much of Westside Road is also included in the outage.

BC Hydro says power went out shortly after 10 a.m.

The cause is unknown and crews are on the way.

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