Emergency crews face ‘onlooker onslaught’ at RV and grass fire along Okanagan Lake – Reuters

UPDATE 6:35 p.m.

Emergency crews had to deal with an “onload of spectators” when a fire broke out Tuesday afternoon at the beach grounds along Okanagan Lake near the Bennett Bridge.

West Kelowna firefighters were called shortly before 3 p.m. to an RV fire at the beach grounds on Old Ferry Wharf Road in Westbank First Nation territory.

By the time crews arrived, the blaze had been blown across the grass and had begun to spread up the hill, where firefighters halted the advancing flames.

The location of the fire, in the busiest part of the lake, drew a crowd.

“It was a show. The highway was busy, the lake was full of boats,” said fire chief Jason Brolund, explaining that he was grateful that the police responded quickly to manage the toilets.

“We ask boaters, I know it’s something to see, but stay clear,” he said, noting the massive help the helicopter provided in containing the fire.

“If you are on a lake on a boat, please stay away and let us do our job.”

Fireboats from Kelowna and the North Westside also participated in the operation.

“These two units were crucial in pumping water from the lake upstream to stop the spread of the fire,” Brolund said.

The flames died down 100 yards from a house off Old Ferry Wharf Rd. – where six families were evacuated – before crews put out the fire.

“We appreciate the quick and substantial response from the RCMP to facilitate the evacuation and deal with the onslaught of bystanders,” Brolund added.

“This is a typical ‘Okanagan summer’ fire that our crews are training to respond to. We are grateful for the support, cooperation and teamwork of all the agencies involved that led to today’s result.

There were no injuries in the fire, which completely destroyed the RV unit it originated from. The cause of the fire is under investigation. All the evacuated families are now back in their homes.

UPDATE 4:50 p.m.

West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund said the blaze is now under control.

He says by the time firefighters arrived at the blaze, the mobile home was completely engulfed and the fire jumped onto grass nearby.

“The fire spread quickly, driven by the winds, which is typical for this time of day,” he said, explaining that crews had stopped the fire at the top of the hill.

Six homes on Old Ferry Wharf Road were tactically evacuated during the ordeal.

Fire crews from West Kelowna, Kelowna and North Westside were all in attendance and were supported by the BC Wildfire Service.

“We are grateful for the quick and substantial response from the RCMP to facilitate the evacuation and deal with the onslaught of bystanders.”

“It’s fire season now, here we are,” the fire chief added.

UPDATE 4:25 p.m.

Crews appear to be finishing the fire of the grass portion of this afternoon’s fire near the Bennett Bridge.

A helicopter is still active on the fire while a fireboat continues to put out the mobile home that started it all.

A statement from the West Kelowna Fire Department is expected shortly.

UPDATE 4:05 p.m.

West Kelowna RCMP are asking members of the public to avoid the area around Old Ferry Wharf Road while first responders attend to a fire in the area.

In particular, marine traffic is asked to stay clear as the fire boat and BC Wildfire helicopter work to extinguish the mobile home fire and hot spots on the nearby hill.

Updates will be provided as more information becomes available.


UPDATE 3:50 p.m.

A BC Wildfire Service helicopter was called to help extinguish the fire.

A helicopter sweeps over parts of the fire that have spread through the grass where access on foot is difficult.

Crews continue to bring the fire under control and now appear to be tackling hot spots.

UPDATE 3:30 p.m.

Firefighters have now brought most of the fire under control and slowed its spread up the hill.

Crews are watering down the scorched rubble of the mobile home where the fire started and are now dealing with a number of spot fires in the grass at the north edge of the blaze.

Traffic continues in both directions on nearby Route 97.

ORIGINAL 3:15 p.m.

Firefighters rush to a structure fire on the Okanagan Lake waterfront near the Bennet Bridge.

A mobile home on Westbank First Nation land is completely engulfed and flames have begun to travel up the embankment toward the highway and cliff.

A huge plume of black smoke is visible from the surrounding area.

Witnesses report hearing propane tanks explode in flames.

Castanet has reporters on the way to the stage.

More soon…

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