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.

Just Posted

Another Surrey mayoral candidate wants to ‘pause’ LRT plans

Hayne and his Integrity Now team join other candidates who aren’t sold on the city’s light rail plans

Teen stabbed at Surrey’s Unwin Park

17 year old was transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries

North Delta teacher nominated for provincial award

Seaquam Secondary’s Michael Iachetta has been nominated for his work on social equity in schools

No WorkSafeBC orders issued after ruptured water main damaged White Rock theatre

Investigation confirms that the water line ruptured as a result of pressure testing

City offering relief for North Delta residents affected by Surrey townhouse fire

Delta will waive fees and expedite permits for those rebuilding from the July 5 blaze

Environment Canada confirms Ottawa area hit by two tornadoes Friday

At one point more than 200,000 hydro customers were blacked out

Cities make power play for new fiscal order with eye to 2019 federal election

Trudeau ordered Champagne to talk with provinces and territories about ways to “address the timeliness of the flow of funds” to projects.

Ottawa area residents take stock of tornado rubble as Ford tours the ruins

A tornado on Friday afternoon tore roofs off of homes, overturned cars and felled power lines in the Ottawa community of Dunrobin and in Gatineau, Que.

Trudeau arrives at United Nations, hoping to re-establish Canada on world stage

Trudeau is beginning his day at the opening of the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, where he’s scheduled to deliver brief remarks later this afternoon.

B.C.’s FATSO peanut butter to appear on Dragon’s Den

The Victoria company will be featured on the Sept. 27 episode of the popular show highlighting Canadian businesses

Whitecaps see playoff dreams fade after 2-1 loss to FC Dallas

Goal in 87th minute seals Vancouver’s fate

Porsche impounded for going 138 km/hr in 90 zone during charity rally

West Vancouver Police said wet roads and heavy rain made it extra dangerous

Most Read