The last travel restriction for the Okanagan region in British Columbia has been lifted alongside all previous evacuation orders within Kelowna’s city limits, as wildfires there diminish after this week’s rainfall.
Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma said in a statement late yesterday that travel restrictions to West Kelowna – adjacent to the McDougall Creek wildfire – has been lifted as of midnight.
The ban for Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon and Kamloops was lifted earlier this week after being placed over much of the region on Aug. 19 to ensure there are accommodations for evacuees and emergency personnel.
Meanwhile, the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre has downgraded all orders within Kelowna, as well as those for some homes in West Kelowna Estates and more than 300 properties in the District of Lake Country, to alert status.
However, officials say evacuation orders are still in effect in parts of West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation and Lake Country.
The emergency operations centre says returning residents should follow its comprehensive guide for a safe return, including proper procedures for issues involving pets, insurance and mental health support.
In addition, officials caution that residents may face a number of hazards left by the wildfire, including damaged trees that can be reported to the City of Kelowna if they are on public property.
Wildfires continue to rage in other parts of British Columbia, including the Stein Mountain blaze near Lytton now at close to 33 square kilometres in size.
The growing fire forced the Thompson-Nicola Regional District to expand its evacuation order to two additional properties in Blue Sky Country north of Lytton Thursday afternoon.
The regional district was able to rescind evacuation orders for 38 properties adjacent to the Ross Moore Lake wildfire south of Kamloops at around the same time.
There are currently around 370 active wildfires across the province, with about 150 classified as out of control and 14 qualified as fires of note for their visibility and threat to populated areas.
To date, wildfires have scorched almost 18,000 square kilometres of land in British Columbia, with 71 per cent of the fires caused by lightning and 23 per cent triggered by people.