The updated number of properties damaged in the Grouse Complex wildfires in the Central Okanagan has increased from 181 to 189.
“As we anticipated additional properties with significant to full loss have been identified,” said Sally Ginter, Regional District Central Okanagan (RDCO) CAO during a regional wildfire update Monday (Aug. 28).
“Our hearts go out to all who have been impacted by this unprecedented fire event, and particularly to those whose homes have been significantly damaged or lost.”
Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) staff will begin personally calling all of the impacted property owners who have completed the online property contact form.
Only those residents in the following areas of West Kelowna and the Regional District of the Central Okanagan Electoral Area West still on evacuation order are asked to visit the EOC website and re-check for property status updates:
- West Kelowna Estates
- Properties with access from Bear Creek Main
- Neighbourhoods along Westside Road
Property information tool users are reminded to type out the full legal civic street address only (city and postal code not required). The EOC asks the general public to be respectful of the process—if you are not on evacuation order, do not use the search tool.
No changes have been recorded in Kelowna, Lake Country or Westbank First Nation. The updated breakdown of properties with significant damage to full structure loss is as follows:
- Lake Country 3;
- Kelowna 4;
- Westbank First Nation 19;
- West Kelowna 69;
- Regional District of Central Okanagan West Electoral Area 94.
This number includes Lake Okanagan Resort as a single property. On this property, approximately 150 units have been impacted.
Lake Okanagan Resort property owners are encouraged to visit cordemergency.ca for special instructions to search for their property.
Ginter added that 2,831 properties are still on evacuation order.
West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund said the damage in the West Kelowna Estates and Westside Road neighbourhoods is significant.
“You or your neighbours in many cases have lost their homes and lost everything.”
Entire systems such as power lines have to be removed and rebuilt, while many roads have been damaged and need to be repaired.
For many residents who are still wondering when they can go home, Brolund said they will be able to do so once their neighbourhoods are safe.
“It will be days or even weeks before people can return to the most devastated areas,” Brolund said. The hard work of structural firefighting now becomes the hard work of recovery. The firefight in our community has transitioned to a firefight in the hills above our community.”
Thousands of evacuation orders and alerts have been downgraded or rescinded in West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation and the Northwestside.
“Today I am hopeful even more will do so,” Brolund said. There is still a lot of fire behind our community.”
He added the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) has built fire guards and conducted hand ignitions in the past few days to help protect the Shannon Woods and Tallus Ridge neighbourhoods.
“Should the fire challenge those guards it can be held and the neighbourhoods aren’t at risk. Smith Creek, being a little more southern, is a neighbourhood where that work is still ongoing.”
The BCWS will be conducting further hand ignitions to ensure the Smith Creek neighbourhood is as safe as others, Brolund said.
“Based on that work we’re going to be able to let that community home soon. It’s a matter of days if not shorter.”
Several fire departments from around B.C. that rushed to the Central Okanagan to help have now returned to their communities.”
“My firefighters said to me ‘Chief we will be the last ones on the line’ and I can tell you that we were,” Brolund.
The chief shared that the evacuation order for Rose Valley Elementary School has been lifted.
“The school was saved through the hard work of firefighters. Because of that, this morning, the teachers were able to get back into the school and begin to set up their classes. That’s a major milestone for the community.”
Brolund noted it will be some weeks or months before the McDougall Cree fire is extinguished.
Northwestside Fire Chief Ross Kotscherofski also had good news for many residents in his community.
Properties north of Terrace Mountain Road along Westside Road, including La Casa up to and including Fintry Provincial Park can return to their homes under evacuation alert status.
Returning residents must access Westside Road from Highway 97 North through the Okanagan Indian Band, as southern access is currently not safe.
Kotscherofski also expressed support on behalf of firefighters to those who have had their properties damaged or destroyed.
“We are with you. We are part of your community and we are experiencing the same thing.”