A wildfire started July 27 near Yates Road in Kelowna. - BC Wildfire Service

B.C. firefighters repeatedly impeded by recreational boaters on Okanagan Lake

The public has continually been urged to stay away from wildfires

Though nearby wildfires are still wreaking havoc on the area, boaters on British Columbia’s Okanagan Lake continue to enjoy the best of a B.C. summer — and that’s causing problems for firefighters working in the area.

Glen Burgess of the BC Wildfire Service said the boaters are impeding the response of firefighters’ support aircraft, which use the lake as a bucketing tool and water source.

Burgess said the wildfire had spread down to the shoreline but was not keeping boaters away from well-known recreational hot spots, and the RCMP was eventually called in to help keep the public away.

“Boaters are still trying to use them despite the fire being literally right there, and it began to interfere with our bucketing operations,” Burgess said during a briefing Saturday.

READ MORE: Youths playing with lighter start Kelowna wildfire by accident

READ MORE: Public urged to stay away from inactive wildfires

Fire Information Officer Noelle Kekula said in an interview Sunday that boaters were getting too close to the helicopters and skimmers, amphibious tanker planes that can hold more than 3,000 litres of water or fire-retardant chemicals, and need room to take off once they fill up.

“Think of (the lake) like an airstrip: the skimmers need to come in and land, and then they need enough room to take off again,” she said, adding that both the helicopters and skimmers become significantly more heavy when full of water.

The helicopters lower a 950-litre bucket into the water to fill up, said Kekula, and can drop the water more precisely than the “shotgun” approach the skimmers take when emptying above a blaze.

Kekula said she’s especially frustrated by the repeated warnings to boaters whose actions are putting firefighters and their communities in danger and creating ”incredible safety issues.”

She said she did not know the motivation behind the boaters getting dangerously close to the aircraft, but said she would not be surprised if they were thrill-seekers trying to ride the large wakes created by the skimmers.

“It’s the million-dollar question as to why people are interfering with our operations,” said Kekula.

Kekula hopes the warnings to the public, along with RCMP involvement, will help boaters manage themselves properly.

The wildfire in Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park has grown to nearly 14 square kilometres and is classified as out of control by the BC Wildfire Service.

— By Spencer Harwood in Vancouver

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Evacuation alert issued for three properties on Garvin Road, southeast of Quesnel

The Cariboo Regional District has issued the alert due to “potential danger to life and health”

Feds committed to protecting, restoring declining Fraser River chinook stocks says Fisheries Minister

Populations have been declining for a number of years due to habitat loss and climate change

UPDATE: Nazko Road has reopened to traffic

Nazko Road had been closed in both directions due to a washout at the Udy Creek bridge

Barkerville getting back to business

The Historic Town and Park has extended operating hours, altered public programming beginning July 3

13 new B.C. COVID-19 cases, Langley Lodge outbreak ends

Health care outbreaks down to four, 162 cases active

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

B.C.’s major rivers surge, sparking flood warnings

A persistent low pressure system over Alberta has led to several days of heavy rain

B.C.’s Indigenous rights law faces 2020 implementation deadline

Pipeline projects carry on as B.C. works on UN goals

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

Homicide investigation underway in Prince George

A 26-year-old woman has died as a result of stabbing.

B.C. teacher loses licence after sexual relationships with two recently-graduated students

The teacher won’t be allowed to apply for a teaching certificate until 2035

Lower Mainland teacher facing child pornography charges

Elazar Reshef, 52, has worked in the Delta School District

Most Read