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The latest news on the wildfires ravaging British Columbia

A state of emergency remains in place today across British Columbia as threatening wildfires force thousands of residents to evacuate from homes in the Okanagan in the southern Interior and elsewhere in the province. 

Here are the latest developments on the B.C. wildfires (all times are PT):

4:30 p.m.:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office says he convened a meeting of the incident response group Saturday to discuss wildfires in B.C. and the Northwest Territories.

A statement says the group, made up of ministers and senior officials, discussed the importance of making additional resources available to both jurisdictions.

A separate statement says Trudeau also spoke with B.C. Premier David Eby about the situation and promised to provide all necessary aid from the federal government.

The Tŝilhqot’in Nation has opened a group lodging centre to protect its community members, as well as Indigenous people across the province, in the event of an evacuation.

The Nation says the site, which can accommodate up to 100 people, includes ranger tents, family-sized tents and spaces for RVs.

It says the location in Riske Creek is intended to be a supplementary resource and bolster the region’s capacity to host evacuees. 

4:15 p.m.:

The Metro Vancouver Regional District has issued an air quality advisory due to high concentrations of fine particulate matter from wildfire smoke.

It says the concentrations are expected to become elevated this evening and into tomorrow morning. 

It’s expected to last until there is a change in the weather.

4 p.m.:

The Ironman Triathlon scheduled for next weekend in Penticton has been cancelled.

Organizers say the state of emergency and restrictions on travel to the southern Interior for non-essential purposes mean the event is being cancelled for the safety of all involved.

Penticton Mayor Julius Bloomfield says that while the cancellation is disappointing, the need to support those who have been affected by the fires needs to take precedence.

3 p.m.:

The mayor of Penticton says BC Housing is relocating people who were being sheltered by Turning Points in Kelowna into his community.

Julius Bloomfield says staff and management are on hand to supervise the temporary relocation and to ensure that all the proper supports are provided. 

Bloomfield says BC Housing has confirmed that all the evacuees will return home to Kelowna when safe to do so.

1:30 p.m.: 

Premier David Eby says 35,000 people across British Columbia are under evacuation orders and another 30,000 people are under advisories and may have to leave their homes quickly.

The province is restricting travel in fire affected areas for those staying in temporary accommodations like hotels and campgrounds to make room for evacuees and first responders.

Eby says those staying in hotels in the area are being asked to consider going home early.

12:15 p.m.:

West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund says water supply issues are emerging in the community.

As a result, the city is moving to Stage 4 restrictions, which mean no outdoor use of water.

Brolund says water from fire-damaged homes is flowing freely and there are concerns local reservoirs are no longer full.

The fire chief urged residents to reduce water consumption, saying the water left in the reservoirs is needed to fight the wildfire.

Three Kelowna-area mayors and an Indigenous leader spoke about the impact of the wildfires at a news conference that followed a briefing by fire officials.

West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom calls the fires devastating and shocking, but is praising the resilience of community residents, who he says will recover.

Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas says his city still has a long way to go in its journey with the fire, while Lake Country Mayor Blair Ireland confirms the blaze as destroyed some structures in his community.

West Bank First Nation Chief Robert Louie says he and his people are praying to the “Great Creator to allow the winds to subside to calmness.” 

 11:30 a.m.:

Structural losses have been confirmed in the City of Kelowna by fire chief Travis Whiting, who says he can’t share specific numbers until after homeowners have been informed.

Whiting says firefighters have nevertheless been very successful in protecting homes from the Clifton-McKinley wildfire.

Whiting says people need to stay out of the way of fire crews, and boaters need to stay off Lake Okanagan as firefighting aircraft will be using it to pick up water.

11:20 a.m.: 

West Kelowna’s fire chief is praising hundreds of firefighters for earning what he called a reprieve for the city as a devastating wildfires continue to rage nearby.

But Jason Brolund says firefighters are still tackling multiple structure fires, including streets full of burning houses. 

Speaking at a briefing this morning, Brolund said the previous night’s battle got a boost from calmer and cooler conditions, but the fight continues to expand.

10:30 a.m.:

West Kelowna resident Claire Blaker is wondering if the house she left on Friday is still standing.

Blaker says she came to Kelowna and watched from the waterfront as other homes in her neighbourhood caught fire.

She says she’s worried about her sister, who lives less than half a kilometre from her, and her elderly neighbours who have lived in Kelowna since the mid 1970s.

10:10 a.m.:

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has downgraded an evacuation order to an alert for some properties along the Similkameen River.

The area on the west side of Highway 3 includes Suncatchers RV Park, Riverside MH Park and Lucky R MH Park.

The district says 13 properties remain under an evacuation order and 195 are under an alert as a result of the Crater Creek Wildfire.

10 a.m.:

Two press conferences have been scheduled to provide updates about the wildfires that are threatening West Kelowna and Kelowna.

The Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre says there will be an “operational update” at 11 a.m. Saturday with representatives from BC Wildfire Service, RCMP and provincial emergency support services.

The Regional District of Central Okanagan has scheduled a briefing for noon which will include local mayors and the chief of the Westbank First Nation.

8:30 a.m.:

The Canadian Red Cross has launched an appeal to help support people affected by the wildfires threatening communities and forcing thousands to evacuate their homes.

Donations to the British Columbia Fires Appeal will be used for immediate and ongoing relief, recovery and resilience efforts and could also be used for preparedness and risk reduction for future provincial disasters. 

Canadians wishing to make a donation can do so online at www.redcross.ca or by calling 1-800-418-1111.

8:25 a.m.:

Members of a Kelowna family say they’ve got a trailer packed and ready to go if the massive wildfire menacing their community forces them out of their home.

Chris Durkee and Danielle Mogdam and their five kids had just returned to their Kelowna home from a trip to Alberta earlier this week and thought they were safe from the fire across the lake.

But yesterday they were awoken by a neighbour banging on their door to tell them a mountainside visible from their yard was on fire. 

Durkee, who has lived in Kelowna for 30 years, says the family isn’t panicking just yet but has packed the trailer as a precaution should the flames get too close.

7:30 a.m.:

The Lower East Adams Lake Wildfire has prompted evacuation orders in the Shuswap Lake area east of Kamloops.

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District and area Indigenous nations issued evacuation orders Friday night for the Scotch Creek, Lee Creek, Celista, Magna Bay and Little River areas.

The Scotch Creek and Takana Bay bridges were closed and Scotch Creek residents were told to evacuate by boat.

— This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2023. 

The Canadian Press

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