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Vancouver Island fire crews help battle flames in Kelowna


As flames ravage the Kelowna area, forcing thousands to flee and destroying dozens of homes and counting, fire crews from Vancouver Island are rushing to help.

Four municipal firefighters from Saanich, as well as crews from Lake Cowichan and Comox, have headed to the Interior. The team from Saanich arrived at the fires on Friday afternoon.

Saanich’s Assistant Deputy Chief Craig Ford said with fire conditions so extremely dangerous here on Vancouver Island, it’s a juggling act with resources, but his team felt compelled to help.

“Mother nature has a way of actually making sure that we all have to support each other," Ford said from Saanich's fire hall number one on Friday.

"That could be earthquakes, it could be floods, it could be wildfire in this situation."

The devastation wrought by the terrifying flames in the Okanagan has been unlike anything ever seen on Vancouver Island. Still, after unprecedented droughts his summer, Ford says it's not off the table here.

“In my career of 20 years, this is probably the worst case we've had in terms of wildfire threat on Vancouver Island,” Ford said. “We have large tracts of land that are not immune to what's happening in the Okanagan region and elsewhere in the province.”

Flames erupted on Quadra Island Thursday and continue to burn in Strathcona Park, and on Friday morning Saanich fire crews responded to a suspicious grassfire in Swan Lake near Saanich’s fire hall.

Despite it burning on bogland, the fire spread rapidly, and without a quick response could have spread to homes, said Ford.

“Take this situation and put it into one of our parks – where we've got some waterless areas and a longer response time – and we'd have a major issue on our hands.”

The smoke from the Kelowna-area fires is expected to blanket Vancouver Island on Saturday. Yimei Li, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, says the air quality index is expected to rise from low to a moderate risk on Saturday.

"With the incoming smoke for the Interior fires, air quality is expected to worsen,” said Li.

Winds should clear that smoke starting Monday. However, there's little rain in the forecast for weeks, meaning an already unprecedented fire season that may hammer all parts of the province is expected to stretch into the fall. Top Stories

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