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Tourists asked to avoid North Okanagan area near wildfire

The BC Wildfire Service says there's a 'direct threat to life and property' around the White Rock Lake fire.

With strong winds expected to drive extreme fire behaviour at the White Rock Lake fire this coming weekend, the B.C. government is urging tourists not to visit some areas in the North Okanagan.

In a hastily-called press conference Friday afternoon, Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth announced the province is asking tourists to avoid Armstrong, Spallumcheen, the Okanagan Indian Band, Enderby and parts of the Regional District of North Okanagan. A map of the area is located above.

“We want to ensure that people in these communities will be able to evacuate if necessary, access the supports they need, as well as the safety of our firefighters on the ground,” Farnworth said. “We also want to ensure that evacuees have a safe place to stay if they're forced their homes, preferably in the region where they usually reside.

“If you are thinking of visiting there, don't. If you are a tourist in that area, leave now.”

Winds gusting to 30 km/h are expected to hit across the Interior Saturday, with winds twice as strong as that forecast for Sunday.

“Our forecasters and fire behaviour analysts have been working around the clock modelling for the White Rock Lake fire and they are predicting a significant and sustained period of wind through the weekend,” said Cliff Chapman, director of provincial operations with the BC Wildfire Service.

“They will drive aggressive fire behaviour ... those impacts include significant growth, challenging our containment lines on all sides and the potential for large spotting distances, where the head of the fire shoots out ember transfer from the fire and creates spot fires in front of the main body of the fire.

“It has a high potential to start fires, it has the potential to spread quickly and as we've seen through the course of this wildfire season, it has the potential to impact structures and life.”

Chapman added there is a “direct threat to life and property” around the White Rock Lake fire this weekend.

Farnworth once again emphasized the importance for residents in the area to leave immediately if an evacuation order is issued for their region.

“The situation is very serious and could get worse quickly,” Farnworth said.