Firefighters’ efforts being hampered by boaters
KELOWNA — Though nearby wildfires are still wreaking havoc on the area, boaters on Okanagan Lake continue to enjoy the best of a B.C. summer — and that’s causing problems for firefighters working in the area.
Glen Burgess of the B.C. Wildfire Service said the boaters are impeding the response of firefighters’ support aircraft, which use the lake as a bucketing tool and water source.
Burgess said the wildfire had spread down to the shoreline but was not keeping boaters away from well-known recreational hot spots, and the RCMP was eventually called in to help keep the public away.
“Boaters are still trying to use them despite the fire being literally right there, and it began to interfere with our bucketing operations,” Burgess said Saturday.
Fire Information Officer Noelle Kekula said Sunday that boaters were getting too close to the helicopters and skimmers, amphibious tanker planes that can hold more than 3,000 litres of water or fire-retardant chemicals, and need room to take off.
Kekula said she’s especially frustrated by the repeated warnings to boaters whose actions are putting firefighters and their communities in danger and creating “incredible safety issues.”
She said she would not be surprised if the boaters were thrill-seekers trying to ride the large wakes created by the skimmers.