WEST KELOWNA — The large wildfire that destroyed dozens of homes in West Kelowna, B.C., and was a key front in the province’s most devastating fire season on record is now considered “held” after raging out of control since mid-August.
The 139-square-kilometre McDougall Creek fire destroyed or damaged nearly 190 properties and forced the evacuation of thousands of people.
The province’s wildfire service said that while holding the fire is an important milestone, there’s still much work ahead and multiple hazards are present in some areas.
The classification means officials believe the blaze is not likely to spread past predetermined boundaries under current conditions.
“The response to a fire of this scale requires strong teamwork and collaboration across jurisdictions,” an online statement by the BC Wildfire Service said.
“Thanks to partner agencies, First Nations and local governments, national and international resources, as well as the many contractors who were or are supporting suppression.”
Officials say an area restriction order, limiting who can travel to the vicinity of the fire, will remain in place until at least Oct. 3.
Those allowed through include firefighters, people with homes in the area that are not under an evacuation order, and people doing agricultural activities.
Almost all remaining evacuation orders issued for the Regional District of Central Okanagan and the City of West Kelowna have been rescinded, with the exception of a handful of properties in West Kelowna.
Most evacuation alerts are also over.
The B.C. Wildfire Service says residents can expect to see smoke in the area until there is significant rain or snow.
About half of the 400 structures or homes destroyed in B.C.’s record-breaking fire season so far have been lost in the Kelowna area.
The season spiralled into a crisis when the McDougall Creek fire swept down on West Kelowna on the evening of Aug. 17, engulfing residential streets that were evacuated with little time to spare.
A provincewide state of emergency was declared the next day, as the same weather front that fuelled the McDougall Creek blaze fanned fires in the Shuswap region.
There, the Bush Creek East wildfire destroyed almost 200 structures and remains out of control.
The McDougall Creek fire was discovered on Aug. 15, and its cause remains under investigation.
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