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Okanagan wildfires threaten thousands of residents in Kelowna

The evacuation order for several neighbourhoods surrounding the Kelowna area have now been replaced with evacuation alerts. Vicious wildfires have again been threatening thousands of residents in Kelowna. Approximately 11,000 people were forced to flee their homes under evacuation order, by blazes that were sparked on last week. The Terrace Mountain fire is estimated to cover an area of 4,500 hectares, but is now 85% contained.

Approximately 1,013 residents living in the Fintry area, Valley of the Sun and La Casa resort are still on evacuation order.  The estimated 1,200 residents in the Killiney Beach Short Notice evacuation alert and the Caesar’s Landing short notice evacuation alert areas must be prepared to leave their homes at a moment’s notice.  Another approximately 2,508 residents remain on evacuation alert in the Westshore – Beau Park and Wilson’s Landing – Trader’s Cove and Bear Creek Main to Bear Lake Evacuation Alert areas and should be ready to leave their home should that status change.

The Evacuation Alert has been rescinded for the estimated 17,500 residents affected in the Glenrosa and Rose Valley fires within the District of West Kelowna. Both fires are in the clean-up stage are 100% contained.

The close proximity of the fire to residential areas are a stark reminder of the devastating 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park fire that destroyed 239 homes on the southern edge of Kelowna, and forced 27,000 people to evacuate. Following the 2003 fire, Interior Reforestation Co. Ltd. prepared a report for the City of Kelowna that evaluated restoration opportunities in the wake of the disaster. The “Post Fire Rehabilitation Project” produced a variety of tools to help local government coordinate and focus additional fire re-vegetation and restoration treatments.

Environment Canada has released a special weather statement for coastal British Columbia, citing ‘extreme heat and poor air quality for metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley’, with temperatures into the mid-to upper 30s can be expected. Computer models suggest the heat-wave may last another 4 to 5 days. Many daily temperature records will be broken and possibly monthly temperature records such as hottest July day on record.

ACT will be releasing our second set of policy recommendations – on extreme weather events – in September 2009.

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