Wilson’s Landing Fire Chief Paul Zydowicz says the McDougall Creek Wildfire continues to be a ‘nightmare.’
“The force, speed, and intensity of the fire is unprecedented in our community. Two years ago as we worked the White Rock Lake fire we thought at the time that it was the biggest fire of our lives. It pales to what we just experienced.”
During a regional wildfire update Thursday (Aug. 24), an emotional Zydowicz said 13 of his firefighters have lost their homes to the McDougall Creek fire.
“Our community has suffered an incredible blow, yet from the very first spark you showed up and fought this fire while your own homes were burning behind you. I have no words to describe the pride that I feel to be part of this team.”
He also thanked Northwestside Fire Chief Ross Kotscherofski, Deputy Chief Shawn Barnes, and their crews for ongoing mutual aid. Zydowicz expressed his sorrow for everyone who has lost a home or property to the fire.
“When I say we are with you, know that I mean it. We understand the pain and grief you are feeling because we are feeling it too.”
As of yesterday (Aug. 23) those who have lost their homes, or sustained property damage, are able to access information on the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) website. The site was offline briefly due to high demand.
“For some of you, yesterday brought relief, while for others the news was devastating,” said Loyal Wooldridge, Regional District Okanagan (RDCO) chair.
I want to express my deepest condolences to each and every person who lost their home. Please know you re not alone in this, and as a regional community, we are there with you.”
Wooldridge asked for patience as firefighters, emergency responders, EOC staff and emergency support services volunteers continue the work and recovery efforts that are still needed.
Kelowna Fire Chief Travis Whiting’s voice cracked ever so slightly as he was giving the news that with the Walroy Lake wildfire now classified as being held, all evacuated Kelowna residents will be returning home, hopefully by the end of the day.
“This is really exciting news. I can tell you at the fire hall the mood is very, very high and very, very positive this morning,” Whiting said.
West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund cautioned residents they will see increased smoke in the Shannon Lake neighbourhood today as a result of hand ignitions by BC Wildfire crews to eliminate unburned fuel.
“We have one of the largest structural fire departments assembled at the base of that neighbourhood ready to protect the homes,” he added. I’m not expecting to have to use it. Don’t be scared, don’t be worried when you see the smoke, see it as a sign of expert people doing good work.”
Brolund addressed a question that many residents have been asking; ‘when do we get to go home?’
“I don’t have a crystal ball to tell you that,” he said. We need to make sure those areas are safe. I want to make it clear, we are still firefighting.”
More wildfire evacuation downgrades are expected over the next few days for Central Okanagan residents.
– with files from Brendan Shykora-