More than 50 buildings have been confirmed destroyed by wildfire in West Kelowna.
Premier David Eby told a news conference today that number is based on an initial assessment and is expected to grow. Most, if not all of the buildings, are homes, he said.
“These are families who have lost everything,” Eby said. “It is probably news that is going to get worse.” Other communities have also lost homes, but numbers aren’t yet available.
A heavy urban search and rescue team is working in Kelowna and providing assessments to local government, Eby said.
He plans to travel to fire-affected areas Tuesday with forests minister Bruce Ralston and emergency management minister Bowinn Ma.
“Our goal is to reassure people that we will be there when the crisis passes to help them rebuild and to get information from the front lines to ensure government is as responsible as possible,” Eby said.
He reiterated a call for people to respect travel orders to keep roads clear and hotels available for evacuees. “This is a very stressful situation and the last thing we need is disaster tourists interfering with rescue efforts,” he said.
Eby also said there have been reports of people tampering with firefighting equipment and moving it to locations where they think it’s more badly needed.
“People think they’re helping. They are not. When equipment is not there when the firefighters go to get it, that’s a big problem.”
He said there have also been “isolated” reports of mischief, including theft. He said RCMP will increase enforcement in those areas, but didn’t identify the exact places.
While the weather is looking more favourable, Eby said the wildfire situation in BC remains “incredibly serious.”
In the North Shuswap, two fires have merged and now cover 41,000 hectares. Yesterday heavy smoke in the region grounded helicopters helping to battle the blaze.
In the Okanagan Valley, fire officials say they have made some progress and have lifted some evacuation orders, but thousands are still out of their homes due to the threat.
–Files by Greg Nesteroff, My Kootenay Now