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

Sound of Prince Rupert’s cherry trees to be played around the world

Salvaged wood from chopped sakura trees is being crafted into taiko drum sticks

The Postmen collect 45 boxes of supplies for wildfire relief

Prince Rupert donations of food, water and toilet paper to be delivered to Burns Lake first

Coastal police unit operating with half its members

RCMP report to Port Edward council reveals low numbers on the coastal force

In Our Opinion: How to lose an ammonia tank— ask the city

How did a 68kg cylinder of ammonia remain unseen after multiple audits and assessments

Donation drop off tonight for B.C. wildfire victims

The Postmen have set up a three-day depot at the Moose Hall in Prince Rupert for disaster relief

This Week Podcast – Episode 98

From the Prince Rupert Golf Club, catch up on sports, entertainment and news highlights

The Northern View 2018 Readers Choice

Vote online or at the Prince Rupert office before noon on Sept. 7

Red Cross now accepting donations for those impacted by B.C. wildfires

The Canadian Red Cross is asking for help now and in the weeks and months ahead.

B.C. program to educate parents reduces ‘shaken baby syndrome’ by 35%

Period of PURPLE Crying was launched nearly a decade ago

B.C. golfer, just 23, scores the rare albatross

Six-million-to-one shot a first for the Terrace club

Fredericton widow swears at Trudeau during condolence call

Widow of man killed in Fredericton shooting says she swore at Trudeau during condolence call.

Tim Hortons promises leaky lids on coffee cups to be phased out

Tim Hortons looks to rebuild its brand with better lid, new marketing campaign

‘There’s been a lot of devastation:’ man whose family lost homes in B.C. fire

The provincial government declared a state of emergency Wednesday as more than 550 wildfires burn in every corner of B.C.

Capsized tug now out of the water at the mouth of B.C.’s Fraser River

The 19-metre-long George H. Ledcor capsized late Monday.

Most Read