Fire­fight­ers’ ef­forts be­ing ham­pered by boaters

The Province - - NEWS -

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.

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