Residents in south-central B.C. are being ordered to evacuate due to wildfire. The only way out is by boat


An evacuation order was issued Wednesday for 92 properties on the shore of Adams Lake near Kamloops, B.C. due to a nearby wildfire, with evacuees being told to go to the Adams Lake Ferry — the only way in and out for many residents in the area.

The order from the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) states that the Lower East Adams Lake wildfire poses an immediate danger to life, health and property.

On Wednesday night, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District also issued an evacuation alert for approximately 75 properties on the west side of the lake, while an alert was issued later the same day for the northern reach of the Tsutswecw Provincial Park, just south of the fire.

The area of Adams Lake is primarily recreational, located 85 kilometres northeast of Kamloops in the central Interior.

“There is actually no road access to those communities,” said Tracy Hughes, the public information officer for the CSRD. “Their only access point is by ferry or by their personal watercraft.

An area in southeast Adams Lake is highlighted in red to indicate an evacuation order.
Evacuees are being told to head to the Adams Lake Ferry and leave immediately due to the Lower East Adams Lake wildfire. (Columbia Shuswap Regional District)

“We certainly know that some people left via their own boats. But many of the evacuees had to cross on the ferry and it’s a 10-minute trip across the ferry from one side to the other.”

Hughes said she didn’t know the exact number of people being told to leave immediately, as the area had been on evacuation alert for over a week and people had been coming and going.

After taking the ferry, evacuees are being told to travel by road to the Quaaout Lodge in nearby Chase, B.C.

Hughes said she expected some people to stay behind, as some residents had said they would not leave at a recent public meeting with the district.

“We need people to take this order extremely seriously. We do not put in orders lightly,” the officer told CBC News.

“If we put in an order, it means that there is a threat to your safety and you need to go immediately.”

An evacuation alert means residents should prepare to evacuate their homes, possibly with little to no notice. An evacuation order means a resident should leave immediately.

‘Dramatic’ change in fire behaviour

The Lower East Adams Lake wildfire covers an area of 25.27 square kilometres as of Wednesday night. It was suspected to have been sparked by lightning on July 12.

While the fire has resulted in evacuation alerts before, Hughes said that there was a “dramatic change in fire behaviour” on Wednesday, prompting the evacuation order.

A helicopter drops a bucket of water on a smoky forest.
A helicopter is seen dropping water on the Lower East Adams Lake wildfire on July 30. (B.C. Wildfire Service)

“This fire developed quite a large smoke plume this afternoon,” she said on Wednesday. “It became very visible from many areas of the community, even as far away as Salmon Arm.”

The B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS) says in an update that structure protection crews were working through Wednesday as the fire took a turn for the worse, with wind blowing from the north and forcing the fire closer to properties.

“Seven water skimmers were engaged from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Helicopters flew until grounding time to support ground operations,” reads an update from the service just after 9 p.m. on Wednesday.

“Please do not boat on the lake,” a warning from the fire service also reads. 

“Aerial operations may be required to cease [Thursday] if boaters are impacting operations.”

B.C. Hydro has reported that more than 100 residents along the lower end of Adams Lake were without power on Wednesday night, with the BCWS saying downed powerlines may pose a risk to those in the area.

As of 9:15 p.m., according to the BCWS, no structures were reported lost to the fire.

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