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

‘Police are ready’ for legal pot, say Canadian chiefs

But Canadians won’t see major policing changes as pot becomes legal

10 things still illegal in the new age of recreational cannabis

Pot is legal – but there are still a lot of rules, and breaking some could leave you in jail

CCRD Candidates detail their election platforms

More candidate profiles to come….

SD49 School Board Trustee Candidates outline their platforms

SD49 School Board Trustee Candidates will be participating in an All Candidates Forum tonight at NES

Ministry seeking feedback on proposed Anahim Lake to Vanderhoof connector

The proposed new road would connect and upgrade existing forestry roads between Anahim Lake and Vanderhoof on Highway 16

VIDEO: How to roll a joint

The cannabis connoisseur shares his secrets to rolling the perfect joint

Puff, puff, pass: Cannabis is officially legal across Canada

B.C. has only one bricks-and-mortar marijuana store

After 50 years, ‘Sesame Street’ Big Bird puppeteer retiring

The puppeteer who has played Big Bird on “Sesame Street” is retiring after nearly 50 years on the show.

Britain, EU decide to take some time in getting Brexit right

Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said “we need much time, much more time and we continue to work in the next weeks.”

Parole denied for convicted killer-rapist Paul Bernardo after 25 years in prison

Paul Bernardo plead for release on Wednesday by arguing he has done what he could to improve himself during his 25 years in prison.

Man holds newborn son for first time after devastating B.C. racetrack crash

Kayden was born the day after Jonathan was crushed by car at speedway

Smooth start to legal cannabis in B.C., Mike Farnworth says

Online and government store makes 4,000 sales by noon

Commercial diver drowns in Hecate Strait

WorkSafeBC and BC Coroners Service are investigating the diving incident south of Dewdney Island

B.C. Lions look to cement CFL playoff spot with victory over Eskimos

B.C. can cement a post-season berth in the wild West Division on Friday night with a home win over the Edmonton Eskimos

Most Read