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Wildfire prompts evacuation alert, North Shuswap vacationers urged to leave

Evacuation alert issued in response to Lower East Adams Lake wildfire
The Columbia Shuswap Regional District issued an evacuation alert for Lee Creek Wednesday, Aug. 16, and urged vacationers in the North Shuswap to head home. (CSRD photo)

With an evacuation alert now in effect for Lee Creek, vacationers in the North Shuswap are being asked to head home.

The alert was issued Wednesday morning, Aug. 16, by the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) and the Shuswap Emergency Program for more than 800 properties southeast of the Lower Adams Lake East wildfire. The fire has been burning out of control since it was discovered on July 12 and was last estimated to be 6,505 hectares, though it is believed to have grown.

Lee Creek resident Jim Cooperman heard Tuesday that the fire had crossed a guard at the southeast end, and on Wednesday morning was setting up sprinklers to help protect his property.

“It’s getting urgent here,” said Cooperman, adding a neighbour of his has already elected to evacuate.

“Others didn’t even know what was happening. I’ve stopped phoning neighbours and am just concentrating on getting my property ready.”

Cooperman expressed frustration that the fire wasn’t knocked out upon its discovery, and also with the flow of accurate information from BC Wildfire Service. Right now, he’s preparing for the worst, and with the alert in effect, he said governments should be urging non-residents to leave the North Shuswap.

“We’re talking about population on this side of the lake upwards of 60,000…,” said Cooperman.

This was the message CSRD communications coordinator Tracy Hughes had Wednesday morning for vacationers in the area.

“We are asking people who are vacationing in the area, who are camping, who are seasonal – now is an appropriate time for those people to consider leaving,” said Hughes. “We would like to reduce the number of people in that area as much as we can to the permanent residents. That’s going to ease a burden should we have an evacuation order.

“We would also like to let people know if they’re considering coming, they have a reservation, it’s not advisable to be coming to vacation in an evacuation alert area.”

Regarding the fire situation, Hughes confirmed the fire did cross a guard, but said there are multiple guards in the area.

“The fire did breach one of those guards which is why the alert has gone in,” said Hughes, noting the decision to issue the evacuation alert was informed by the BC Wildfire Service.

“One of the primary things BC Wildfire assesses when making recommendations to put alerts and orders on is how long it’s going to take to evacuate those communities, and we know they’re essentially one road in/one road out. There are some forestry roads but those might be a difficult access point.”

Hughes also stressed BC Wildfire Service’s incident command chiefs are stationed at the firebase at the Skwlax airstrip.

“They’re not sitting in Vancouver or Victoria – they are right on scene, they are getting the best situational awareness they can get and they are helping us to make the decision to issue alerts and orders,” said Hughes.

A resident of Lee Creek for 54 years, Cooperman recently “FireSmarted” his property and said it’s in pretty good shape, given the “hot spot of the province right now is in my own backyard.” But he remains concerned the fire will continue moving towards Lee Creek.

In addition to the BC Wildfire Service, Hughes said local fire departments are patrolling the North Shuswap and the CSRD has two structural protection crews set up in Lee Creek. On Wednesday morning, the Salmon Arm Fire Department sent a structural protection crew to the North Shuswap.

Read more: Small Celista spot fire quickly put out amid North Shuswap evacuation alerts

Read more: Evacuation alert issued for 807 Lee Creek properties in the North Shuswap
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