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Boaters urged to stay away from Shuswap firefighting operation

Regional district says some people have chosen to not follow evacuation order
The East Adams Lake wildfire spreads across the lake from Interfor’s Adams Lake mill on Wednesday night, Aug. 2, 2023. (Rick Kwitkoski/Facebook photo)

“A very dynamic, very rapidly evolving situation.”

This is how Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) communications co-ordinator Tracy Hughes described the Lower East Adams Lake wildfire Thursday morning, Aug. 3.

The evening prior, evacuation orders were issued for 92 properties south of the blaze. For the safety of firefighters/first responders, BC Hydro shut power off to the affected area.

The Thompson Nicola Regional District issued an evacuation alert for properties on the west side of the lake and along Adams River south to Tsútswecw Park. The CSRD put issued an evacuation alert for an adjacent area on the east side of the river.

As of 10 a.m. Thursday there had been no loss of structures to the fire which, prior to Wednesday night’s southwest advance, was estimated to be 2,527 hectares in size.

“As of last night, everybody who wished to be evacuated was evacuated…,” said Hughes, noting some people elected to stay behind, despite the advice of first responders. “We’re following up this morning to see if any made the decision to leave through the night or are making the decision to leave this morning. But we do know there are still citizens on that side.”

Hughes said if any of the people who stayed behind should leave their properties amid the evacuation order, they will not be allowed to return.

“So if they want to leave for groceries or fuel- any of those things, once they are out of that evacuation order area, there is security and RCMP, the ferry will not be allowing any member of the public across,” said Hughes, adding the regional district has been working closely with the ferry’s operators. “They’ve been terrific in terms of managing that ferry throughout the night and continuing the service so that fire crews can move back and forth and get supplies on it as needed.”

Hughes reported no power poles were impacted by the fire, and BC Hydro was working to restore power.

The CSRD has a structural protection team in the area, and firefighting crews spent much of the night fighting the fire on the ground and in the air. Though progress was made with the aerial attack, Hughes warned boaters on the lake are creating a safety concern that can impede the firefighting effort.

“They were making some good progress, but boats on the lake interfering with them picking up their loads of water is a big issue, and we foresee that being an even bigger issue with the long weekend, so people really need to stay off the lake,” said Hughes. “If it’s unsafe for those pilots to do their pickups, unfortunately those aerial resources sit idle and they’re unable to fight the fire.

“Please do not impede those aerial operations. That particular fire, the lower East Adams fire, is in an area of very steep terrain, it’s very difficult to get ground crews in and those aerial resources are very important.”

The CSRD and Shuswap Emergency Program has set up a reception centre for evacuees at Quaaout Lodge. Hughes said the centre received about 25 people Wednesday night. She urged any residents on evacuation who have not yet checked in with the reception centre to do so, “and then we can help them with whatever assistance or services we can provide.”

Hughes’ description of the East Adams Lake fire – very dynamic, rapidly evolving – was spurred by the sudden change in conditions that led to Wednesday night’s evacuation orders. Not long before the first evacuation order was issued, the CSRD had shared BC Wildfire Service projections suggesting there was no imminent threat to nearby structures. She suggested the subsequent mixed messaging may have been the result of the time it took from when the fire was assessed and projections made, to when the information was shared with the public.

“Unfortunately, in this case, there were definitely some crossed wires, so we need to look in the future at how we are going to do a better job,” said Hughes. “And that goes for BC Wildfire and us. We are a partner in this. Certainly, BC Wildfire is the lead agency and they are the ones providing us with those necessary details that we can share with our citizens.”

An update on the fire is expected to be made available sometime after 3 p.m. today.

Read more: Ross Moore Lake wildfire outside Kamloops inching closer to Lac Le Jeune

Read more: VIDEO: Salmon Arm firefighters knock out blaze at camp along Highway 1
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Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
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