Residents of B.C.'s Shuswap set to be notified about properties affected by wildfire

Residents of the Shuswap region in British Columbia's Interior will learn about the condition of properties affected by a devastating wildfire starting Monday.

Derek Sutherland, director of the emergency operations centre for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, said staff will call residents to talk about next steps.

The estimated number of properties destroyed by the Bush Creek East wildfire just over a week ago is unchanged at 131, he said, with another 37 sustaining damage.

The district is planning to open a resiliency centre in Salmon Arm, B.C., to support displaced residents "now and well into the future," Sutherland said at a Sunday afternoon briefing.

BC Hydro personnel are working to replace toppled poles, he said, but it will be several more days before it becomes clear when power might be restored for many in the area affected by the 430-square-kilometre blaze.

When asked what parents and students can expect for the return to classes this fall, Sutherland said officials are discussing plans with the local school district.

Mike McCulley, an information officer with the BC Wildfire Service, told a briefing Sunday that crews are focusing efforts on the perimeter of the fire west of Sorrento, as well as the Lee Creek and Manga Bay areas and around Adams Lake.

While Monday is set to bring temperatures nearing 30 C, cooler weather is expected Tuesday, as well as potential rain, which would be "great news," McCulley said.

The regional district is working with residents who are interested in responding to wildfires to provide them with safety training, Sutherland added.

Anyone who has signed up to work with the BC Wildfire Service is being provided with food, gas and water, McCulley said.

In B.C.'s Okanagan, meanwhile, the wildfire service said the West Kelowna Fire Department is returning to "normal day-to-day operations," 10 days after a fast-moving wildfire forced thousands to flee their homes. The blaze went on to destroy more than 170 structures in the area.

An additional 1,800 people have been allowed to return home this weekend as evacuation orders in communities on both sides of Okanagan Lake are lifted, it said.

Residents of two more long-term care homes are among those returning "gradually and carefully" after being evacuated on Aug. 18, the local health authority said in a statement.

Interior Health said 116 residents are set to return to Glenmore Lodge in Kelowna and 48 are returning to a care home in the District of Lake Country.

Close to 1,600 properties remained on evacuation order in fire-ravaged West Kelowna and 1,114 remain on order in rural areas and on Westbank First Nation lands, the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre said in a statement.

The McDougall Creek wildfire, responsible for much of the destruction in the West Kelowna area, continues to burn out of control over 123 square kilometres.

There are just over 370 active blazes in British Columbia, including 12 designated "wildfires of note," meaning they're highly visible or pose a threat to public safety.

The two wildfires that had threatened the District of Lake Country and the City of Kelowna are classified as "being held" and crews are patrolling for hotspots.

Air quality advisories stemming from wildfire smoke remain in effect for B.C.'s south coast and southern Interior, along with parts of the north, from the Bulkley Valley to the Peace region.

Environment Canada has also issued a heat warning for inland sections of the north coast, including Terrace and Kitimat, as well as the Peace region.

Daytime highs near 30 C are expected to persist until Tuesday near the coast and Wednesday in northeastern B.C., the weather office said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 27, 2023.

Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press