After a lovely vacation in recent weeks, I hoped to share stories and photos of our adventures. I may yet do so, but at the moment I cannot focus. The smoke is getting in my eyes.
It’s summer in the Okanagan, and the inevitable happened: smoke filled skies from wildfires. I assumed that our particularly wet and rainy spring, resulting in widespread flooding, would surely lessen the likelihood of wildfires this summer. My assumptions were incorrect.
From floods to fires, the forces of nature have struck close to home in increasing measure over the last months.
Wildfires in British Columbia
To date, 220 wildfires are raging out of control in the province. Only a half hour drive away, the little village of Kaleden lost a home and several outbuildings in a wildfire just this last week. We were concerned for our friends who live in this community. Fortunately, they were fine, but it was a traumatic event for everyone, as they scrambled to evacuate. Due to the quick response of emergency crews, the village was saved, but it was a close call.
Several other communities across BC have been completely evacuated leaving thousands homeless and unsettled.
Looking back at 2003
As this smoke blankets our valley, the sight and smell reminds me of the terrible wildfires of 2003. Sound asleep on a hot summer night I woke with a start when thunder cracked overhead. It was the fateful night of a lightning strike on Okanagan Mountain Park. News reports indicated that the fire was spreading, far from any dwellings. Fires occur, let nature take its course—this was the general strategy at that time.
The fire continued to spread, many miles away, consuming dry brush and trees in a forested area. Not overly concerned, we left town on a planned trip. Watching the news in the coming days, however, we were startled to see friends and neighbours on TV, fleeing their homes in Kelowna. As the hillsides close to town succumbed to the flames, thousands more were ordered from their neighbourhoods.
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In a panic, we drove madly towards home, not knowing what we would find. I will never forget the sight as we surveyed our city from across the lake: an entire mountainside glowing by night, filled with eerie bright orange light, fireballs bursting into relief, as houses exploded and were consumed.
Driving across the bridge into town, the entire highway was a ribbon of headlights, directed away from the city. The familiar streets were deserted, dark, smoke filled. Stopped by law enforcement officers, we were unable to access our neighbourhood. Disoriented, we located a phone and called friends who welcomed us into their home. It was a surreal time, and over the course of the weeks and months that followed, many stories came to light of bravery, narrow escapes, losses great and small. Yet no one lost their lives and for that we are grateful.
My heart goes out to those who have fled the flames and to those who march forward in battle. My prayers are for rain!
Join me in praying for a miracle, and may tears of relief fill our eyes, instead of smoke.