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The latest news on the wildfires in British Columbia

KELOWNA, B.C. — A state of emergency has been declared in British Columbia, as threatening wildfires force thousands to evacuate from homes in the Okanagan in the southern Interior and elsewhere. Here are the latest developments on the B.C.
A state of emergency has been declared in Kelowna, a city with a population of about 150,000, as threatening wildfires prompt officials to issue evacuation orders in parts of British Columbia's Okanagan. The McDougall Creek wildfire burns on the mountainside above houses in West Kelowna, B.C., on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

KELOWNA, B.C. — A state of emergency has been declared in British Columbia, as threatening wildfires force thousands to evacuate from homes in the Okanagan in the  southern Interior and elsewhere. 

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


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says people in Kelowna, B.C., are facing an extraordinarily scary wildfire situation.

He says the fire is moving very fast and it’s important for people to listen to safety recommendations from authorities.

He says the federal government is co-ordinating with the province and offering resources.


6:15 p.m.

British Columbia Premier David Eby has declared a provincewide state of emergency in response to wildfires that forced the evacuation of at least 10,000 more people late Friday.

Eby says the situation has "evolved and deteriorated" rapidly.

Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma says the number of people under evacuation order in B.C. went from 4,500 to 15,000 in the matter of an hour.

A further 20,000 people are under evacuation alert.


6:10 p.m.

Drive BC has issued a travel advisory due to a wildfire between Hawkes Street and Crystal Waters Road for about 62 kilometres, about 11 kilometres south of Coldstream to Peachland.

It says the fire is affecting traffic travelling both directions on Highway 97 and drivers are advised to avoid the area.


5:00 p.m.

Amanda Klassen with Christina Lake Motel and RV Park says the business is offering its park and campground to any wildfire evacuee, noting power and water are available at the sites.

Okanagan Sikh Gurdwara is also now open and giving out free food to the public.


4:03 p.m.

The BC RCMP says it is deploying additional resources to help secure areas that have been evacuated due to encroaching wildfires.

It says officers will be helping with door-to-door evacuations, securing evacuation routes and  conducting patrols in evacuated areas to "secure properties from criminal activity."

The Mounties say officers will only leave an evacuated area if the wildfire threatens their safety. 


3:51 p.m.

The provincial courthouse in Kelowna closes for the day due to the McDougall Creek wildfire and evacuation orders.

It says filing remotely by email or using Court Services Online is still an option while the registry is closed, but it will not be processed before Monday.


3:20 p.m.

West Kelowna evacuee Carrie Friesen says her parents travelled from the Northwest Territories to the Okanagan after fires began raging in the territory, but their respite was cut short when the McDougall Creek wildfire sparked near her home Tuesday.

Friesen says her father, a retired water bomber, did not like the forecast so convinced the family to gather their belongings and leave the area on Thursday.

She says her two children, two cats and her parents are now planning to stay at a friend's house near Big White ski resort as the wildfire in West Kelowna threatens the Rose Valley home she has lived in for almost 40 years.


2:40 p.m.

The historic Lake Okanagan Resort has been destroyed by the McDougall Creek wildfire.

West Kelowna resident Les York says he watched from a boat on the lake as the resort burned Friday morning.

York says he could hear explosions as flames engulfed the buildings, and he saw numerous other lakeside properties destroyed.


2:00 p.m.

Brittany Seibert, an emergency program co-ordinator with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, is asking people to avoid being disruptive to firefighting crews.

She says boaters should remain off the water so air crews are not impacted and people aren't disrupting their operations.

She also asks that people avoid using drones, as aircrafts must be "shut down" if one is being used nearby, which can hinder firefighting efforts. 


1:51 p.m.

British Columbia's travel information system says the Adams Lake ferry is closed for everyone except evacuees and emergency services personnel.

That's after the Columbia-Shuswap Regional District issued evacuation orders and alerts in response to an out-of-control wildfire.

The BC Wildfire Service says the 100-square-kilometre blaze is burning about 21 kilometres north of Chase, on the east side of Adams Lake.

The evacuation order covers properties from 4001 to 4596 Meadow Creek Road, while alerts are in effect for the Scotch Creek and Lee Creek areas.


1:15 p.m.

Wildfires have displayed what officials with the provincial wildfire service called "extreme" growth amid a weather shift that brought high winds and dry lightning.

B.C. officials told a briefing this afternoon that about 4,500 people are under evacuation order across the province, with another 23,500 on alert.

Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma says non-essential travel to Central and Southeast B.C. should be avoided to give firefighters the space they need.


1:08 p.m.

The University of British Columbia Okanagan has issued a statement saying its campus in Kelowna is subject to an evacuation order.

It says everyone on campus must leave immediately, and those without access to transportation should make their way to "H Lot" parking.

Homes were still burning in nearby West Kelowna after an overnight battle that the city's fire chief compared to "100 years of firefighting."

Jason Brolund told a briefing earlier Friday that the fight isn't over and residents would be facing another "scary night," with conditions projected to worsen.


1:02 p.m.

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District has expanded an evacuation order in response to the Downton Lake wildfire burning out of control northwest of Lillooet.

The district says RCMP and other authorities will be "expediting" the evacuation.

It says the order now covers all properties in the district's electoral area "A" that are west of Terzaghi dam, located on the eastern shores of Carpenter Lake.

That includes the Gun Lake, Lajoie Lake, Slim Creek, Marshall Lake and Tyaughton Lake areas, as well as Gold Bridge, Brexton and Bralorne.


12:57 p.m.

Premier David Eby has issued a statement on B.C.'s wildfire situation, saying "it was a devastating evening fighting fires and working to protect people and homes, with extremely difficult and rapidly evolving conditions continuing today."

Eby says the situation is "volatile" and everyone in areas affected by wildfires needs to stay alert, be prepared for an evacuation and "look out for one another."

The premier thanked firefighters and resource crews, First Nations and local government leaders, saying they are "working tirelessly to keep everyone safe."


12:56 p.m. 

The Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre has placed additional properties under evacuation order in areas north of Kelowna.

It says several dozen properties along Finch Road, as well as properties along McKinley Road and Glenmore are being "tactically evacuated by emergency responders."

The centre says all properties accessible from Quail Ridge Boulevard must also be evacuated, including the Quail Ridge Golf Club.


11:19 a.m.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has expanded evacuation orders in a rural area northeast of Keremeos to cover more than 200 properties and lots.

It says residents of 19 properties have been ordered to leave in response to the 220-square-kilometre Crater Creek wildfire burning near Cathedral Provincial Park, which is also subject to an evacuation order.

The service says 37 personnel are assigned to the fire, but it's burning in steep and dangerous terrain, posing risks and challenges for firefighters.

The Upper Park Rill Creek fire discovered early this morning has forced the evacuation of more than 250 properties, with a similar number subject to an evacuation alert.


11 a.m.

The Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre says a local state of emergency has been declared in the District of Lake Country, north of Kelowna. 

It says an evacuation order has been issued for properties in the Nighthawk Tyndale area, including those located along Tyndall Road north of Okanagan Centre Road to Camp Road. 

The order also spans properties on Okanagan Centre Road between Lakestone Drive and 10th Street.

An evacuation alert is also in effect for areas north of the boundary between the City of Kelowna and the District of Lake Country and west of Highway 97.


10:54 a.m.

Homes are ablaze in West Kelowna, B.C., after an overnight battle with a wildfire.

Jason Brolund, chief of the West Kelowna fire department, says the blaze has been "exponentially worse" than expected.

Brolund says first responders became trapped rescuing people who failed to heed evacuation warnings as the McDougall Creek wildfire advanced rapidly towards the community, in what he says was a firefighter's "worst nightmare."

However, Central Okanagan Regional District chairman Loyal Woodridge says there has been no known loss of life.


9:01 a.m.

BC Wildfire Service says the fast-burning McDougall Creek blaze grew six times its size overnight.

The fire has now scorched 68 square kilometres of land, up from 11 square kilometres on Thursday. 

Evacuation orders have been expanded to include the Clifton and McKinley areas north of Kelowna's downtown.

Thousands of properties are under evacuation orders as the City of West Kelowna and the Westbank First Nation have declared local states of emergency.


8:19 a.m.

British Columbia's travel information system says Highway 1 is closed for a stretch of about 15 kilometres between the communities of Hope and Lytton, both of which are under threat from wildfires.

DriveBC says the closure will remain in place until later this morning.

It says Highway 97 is closed in both directions for a stretch of about 63 kilometres between the communities of Coldstream and Peachland.

DriveBC says Highway 97 is also closed for about 14 kilometres between Kelowna and West Kelowna because of wildfires.


7:45 a.m.

The Central Okanagan Emergency Operation Centre is asking evacuees to register through B.C.'s provincial portal:

The centre is also encouraging evacuees to stay with family and friends as most shelters are full.

It is asking residents to use an interactive map on the portal to learn whether their homes are under an evacuation order or alert.

The centre says the McDougall Creek wildfire remains very active and unpredictable.


7:11 a.m.

About 11 square kilometres of land have been scorched in the northwest area of West Kelowna.

The BC Wildfire Service says the McDougall Creek wildfire is not responding to suppression efforts. 

Currently, more than 2,400 properties are under evacuation orders and more than 4,800 properties are under alert as firefighters battle the McDougall Creek blaze.

More than 1,800 wildfires have burned about 16,100 square kilometres of land in B.C. since April 1, and there are more than 360 active fires burning across the province. 


6:42 a.m.

Environment Canada says a special weather statement is in effect for the Okanagan Valley and parts of Interior B.C.

It says strong, gusty winds shifting from the southwest to northwest bring with them a risk of thunderstorms and dry lightning in the Okanagan Valley.

It says there is a possibility for worsening wildfire conditions, new fire starts, risk of breaking tree branches, and challenging boating conditions.


6:21 a.m.

The City of Kelowna, in the Okanagan Valley in the southern interior of British Columbia, has declared a state of emergency.

Firefighters are responding to spot fires coming across Okanagan Lake from the McDougall Creek wildfire.

Evacuation orders have been expanded as residents of 143 properties in the Bartley Road area and 620 properties in the Rose Valley area of West Kelowna are asked to leave due to the McDougall Creek wildfire.

Firefighters have reported loss of structures in West Kelowna, and say a full assessment of the areas affected will be undertaken in the morning. 


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2023.

The Canadian Press