Firefighters from the Cowichan Valley are doing their part fighting the wildfires that have been threatening the Kelowna area and destroying homes and other structures.
Fire crews and trucks from fire halls across the region have been asked to send assistance to help bring the wildfires under control.
At least 200 homes and structures have been lost or damaged by the wildfires as of Aug 23, but officials believe that number could be higher once full surveys of the impacted areas are completed.
The latest reports state there have been no fatalities to date as a result of the fires.
Province-wide, more than 27,000 people remain displaced due to wildfires, with another 35,000 under evacuation alerts, meaning they must be prepared to leave on short notice.
Four fighters from North Cowichan headed to the fire-ravaged region of West Kelowna in the province’s interior on Aug. 18 on a fire truck specifically outfitted for the task of fighting wildfires.
North Cowichan fire chief Martin Drakeley said BC Wildfire, which is organizing the firefighting efforts in the region, initially sent the crew to the McKinley Beach area, which was in between the two fires in Kelowna before they merged earlier this week.
He said they were checking properties for hot spots and embers from the fires to make sure other fires wouldn’t spark up.
“We’re assuming they are still there but there has been so much activity since they arrived, including the merging of the two fires, so we’re waiting for an update,” Drakeley said on Tuesday.
“The crew has been deployed for two weeks and they will be rotated out after that and another four-man crew and fire truck from North Cowichan will be deployed if necessary. We’ll stay as long as BC Wildfire wants us there. Our thoughts are with the residents of West Kelowna, and everyone affected by this wildfire.”
Chris McInerney, fire chief at the Mill Bay fire hall, said a call was received asking for assistance at approximately 6:20 p.m. on Aug. 17 and a four-man crew, including two from the Mill Bay hall and two from the Malahat fire hall, and a truck were immediately dispatched and were in the Kelowna area by 4 a.m. the next morning after driving through the night.
McInerney said that crew was also sent to extinguish hot spots and embers in the West Kelowna area, but he wasn’t sure where they are currently working.
He said the crew is also deployed for two weeks, and will be replaced after that if necessary.
“Special thanks to Malahat Fire Rescue for the assistance and to BC Ferries for ensuring we made the last ferry of the night,” McInerney said.
The Cowichan Bay fire hall had a crew fighting wildfires in the Kamloops area from Aug. 4-12, and then sent a crew to Kelowna on Aug. 16 which has been working there ever since.
The Lake Cowichan fire hall had a crew in Shuswap helping deal with the wildfires there last week before being asked to send a crew of two, including firefighter Jessica May, and a truck to the Kelowna area.
It’s the third deployment by firefighters from Lake Cowichan to deal with wildfires in the province so far this summer.