KELOWNA FIRES – Fires impact power, traffic and water

KELOWNA FIRES – Fires impact power, traffic and water

19 July 2009

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Canada — BC Hydro, Interior Health and RCMP are providing important updates about power outages, water quality issues and highway closures caused by the two forest fires burning in West Kelowna.

BC Hydro said crews continue their efforts to restore power to Peachland and Summerland and that will have an impact in Westbank.

Spokeswoman Jeanette Hoft said the good news is that the main transmission line into Westbank is currently not threatened by the fires, nor is the major substation in Shannon Lake.

Unfortunately however, power outages in Smith Creek and Westbank are due to continue until at least 5 p.m.

“We hope that (power to) Peachland, Summerland and all the areas affected this afternoon will be restored by 6 p.m.,” said Hoft. “The outages in downtown (Westbank) and (Smith) Creek are caused by work on the line down to Peachland–getting the line back in order.”

Outages in Glenrosa will be harder to resolve because of sporadic damage to power poles.

Medical health officer Dr. Paul Hasselback said that when residents finally do have power restored or are able to return to their homes, they should not attempt to refreeze foods that have thawed or eat refrigerated foods that have spoiled due to heat exposure.

“The best adage to remember is, if in doubt throw it out,” he stated. “The last thing we need is people coming down with food poisoning as a result of improperly refrigerated or frozen foods.”

Water quality is also being continually monitored due to the use of fire retardant in forests inside West Kelowna’s Lakeview Irrigation District watershed, said Hasselback.

“It is a newer fire retardant that has fewer health concerns compared to some of the fires in the past, but, we will continue to monitor tests as appropriate and provide information as necessary,” said Hasselback,”but, at this point in time, there are no ongoing concerns.”

Air quality continues to deteriorate as smoke accumulates in the valley, mentioned Hasselback.

Those more sensitive to poor air quality are advised to reduce exertion, drink lots of fluid and, if possible, move to cleaner air in an indoor filtered system, recommended Hasselback.

On a final Interior Health note, due to the fire evacuation alerts, Brookhaven residents have been relocated to Cottonwoods in Kelowna as a precaution.

As for RCMP, Corp. Dan Moskaluk said police officers are urging motorists to steer clear of the Highway 97 and 97C closures.

“We do have a certain amount of traffic and people that are parking their vehicles near the closure points in anticipation of highways reopening,” said Moskaluk. “Please remain away from those areas and listen to updates via media and the appropriate websites.”

RCMP has 44 officers dedicated to assisting with various forest fire operations and ensuring the public peace, he stated.

Boaters are advised to steer 400 metres clear of the shoreline in an area from Westbank Yacht Club to Seclusion Bay, added Moskaluk.

“For the boats, please give a wide berth to the aerial forest services.”

Boat owners are unable to access their boats at the yacht club until further notice, he added.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation said Highway 97C, the Okanagan Connector, remains closed for nearly 50 kilometres in both directions from Aspen Grove to Brenda Mines.

Highway 97 is closed north of Peachland and the junction of Highway 97C.

A temporary detour route for traffic under 27,000 kg gross vehicle weight has been prepared along the 201 Forest Service Road between Penticton and Highway 33 via McCulloch Road. 

This roadway was to be available as of 3:00 pm Sunday afternoon.  Vehicles in excess of 27,000 kg must use the numbered highway routes only.

An option for travellers wanting to go between Merritt and Kelowna is Highway 5 and Highway 1 through Kamloops and Highway 97 through Falkland and Vernon.

Those travelling between Kelowna and Summerland, Penticton and points south can also use Highway 33 and Highway 3 through Rock Creek and Osoyoos and Highway 97 south through Osoyoos and Oliver.

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