A couple of raging wildfires continue to wreak havoc across B.C. in the Okanagan region, forcing local authorities to issue evacuation orders near Kelowna — a city of nearly 150,000 people.
As of writing, fire crews are fighting two fires in the Central Okanagan area: one along McDougall Creek and another along Clifton and McKinley on the eastern shore of Lake Okanagan.
On Thursday evening, Central Okanagan Regional District chair Loyal Wooldridge showed concern that the aggressive growth of the former could prove devastating in the following days.
He said to his knowledge, there has been no loss of life.
Nicole Bonnett, a spokesperson with the B.C. Wildfire Service said to expect "aggressive" fire activity into the weekend.
West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund said the MacDougall Creek blaze reduced a "significant number" of buildings to rubble Thursday evening.
"We fought 100 years' worth of fires — all in one night," he said. "We may have another scary night tonight."
Several properties in the Shayler Road area have now been placed on evacuation order due to fires burning in the McKinley and Clifton areas, impacting thousands of residents.
Evacuations have been issued around Walroy Lake, near Glenmore Road, as of 1 a.m. Friday morning. Emergency crews have since blocked access to the road and the immediate area.
Brolund reported the fire trapped some crew members after some residents refused to evacuate. "That's a fire chief's worst nightmare."
He strongly advised the public to comply with evacuation orders.
Wildfire officials are also battling fires north and south of the Central Okanagan. They include fires in the Lake Country area, between Kelowna and Vernon, and in the South Okanagan communities of Kaleden and Twin Lakes.
"Don't panic," repeated Brolund during an address Friday morning. He praised the firefighters who came from across the province to fight the fires, stating: "We've got a great team here."
Also on Friday morning, Kelowna Fire Department Fire Chief Travis Whiting said his crews responded quickly to the fires Thursday evening, with the larger blaze overcoming the Clifton Road area and crossing the hill to the east.
Whiting said the winds assisted crews in fighting the fire that grew mainly to the north, towards McKinley Landing.
While they managed to protect the homes in the area, officials ordered an evacuation of the immediate area last night at 11:30 p.m.
"Our crews are dug in around the McKinley area right now providing structural protection as these winds continue to drive this fire north on us and as the winds start to shift into other areas," said Whiting.
"So far in Kelowna, we have no confirmed structural loss, and we are continuing to battle and ensure we protect every home we can."
A third fire is now reported on the east side of Okanagan Lake as embers blow across the water from the massive McDougall Creek fire. The spot-sized fire is north of Okanagan Centre Road West in Lake Country.
Two other fires also sparked on the east side of the lake overnight at McKinley Mountain and near Clifton Road.
"We're in the thick of it. This is not over," said Whiting. "We're on Day 2 of a fight that will go on for the foreseeable future."
Kelowna has since declared a state of emergency, cancelling all flights at the local airport.
As of writing, more than 2,400 properties are under evacuation orders, and more than 4,800 properties are under alert.