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‘A historic natural disaster’: Road to recovery from West Kelowna wildfire

West Kelowna Estates/Westside Road communities heavily damaged in McDougall Creek fire
West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund speaks during a regional wildfire update on Aug. 28, 2023.(RDCO video)

While the McDougall Creek wildfire continues to burn in the hills above West Kelowna, the damage assessment, cleanup and repair plan is well underway.

“We are certainly seeing some infrastructure damage to roadways,” said Fire Chief Jason Brolund during a regional wildfire update Monday (Aug. 28). “One of the big focuses for us, still to be looked at, is drainage and runoff, as we move into the fall season we expect to see rains.”

Brolund noted that the ground’s capacity to absorb water will have changed due to wildfire damage.

“We’re also looking at the ability to bring clean drinking water to these neighbourhoods. Areas around our reservoirs have been burned and there are many experts looking at that things at that level as well.”

However, Brolund pointed out that most of the damage has been burned hydro poles.

“The minute those poles are touched by fire they need to be replaced for everyone’s safety. The cooperation from BC Hydro and its contractors, as well as Telus, Shaw, and Rogers, has been second to none. They are already well into these neighbourhoods removing and replacing (infrastructure).”

Brolund added that the next few days and weeks are going to be tough for residents who are returning or waiting to return home.

“When the going got tough your firefighters were on the ground fighting it and now for many, the going is going to get tough and we ask you to take a page from our book and do the same.”

As West Kelowna crews return to their regular duties, while still being available to fight interface fires, Brolund said it’s time to shift to others who will be leading the charge in helping the community recover, referring to the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre (ECO).

“I also need to focus on West Kelowna Fire Rescue,” he added. “Obviousl,y we’ve been through a lot but haven’t had any time to process that. We need to have a beer and we need to talk about all the things we saw, all of the things that we did. Their mental health is also my concern.”

Brolund asked for continued understanding and patience from the public.

“We are only 11 days into a historic natural disaster. Let’s continue to make our response and our recovery historical as well.”

READ MORE: ‘How do I find the words’: Kelowna’s mayor speaks to wildfire response

READ MORE: Kelowna residents get more time to consider borrowing $241M for recreation


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Gary Barnes

About the Author: Gary Barnes

Journalist and broadcaster for three decades.
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