Shame on me for momentarily feeling sorry for myself when so many others are suffering horrendous loss. I just finished poking my head out the door to the backyard then rapidly closed it, muttering to Tez how frustrated I was not able to go outside because of the oppressive, choking smoke.
It’s amazing how some of us take things for granted so easily, even when reality is in our face. The world around me is burning to the ground yet here I am in a safe, relaxed, comfortable place yet bitching and complaining about a little inconvenience. Meanwhile, just across the bridge or a few miles to the north, flames are wiping out homes and properties at a nightmarish pace, and brave hearts are throwing their lives on the line to save said homes and properties. Thank God for them.
Just like the nightmare of 2003 Okanagan Mountain Fire, all local fire fighter units, RCMP, Central Okanagan Emergency Operations (ECO), and emergency rescue crews have answered the call – and in turn been bolstered by a plethora of local volunteers. Most impressive of all is the response of fire crews from out of town. ‘Miraculous’ is a term used way too often, however in the current scenario it is justified. Without the huge number of forest fire foes frantically fighting flames for folks they have never met – this fire would have burned out of control and done much greater damage that it has.
An impressive 31 municipalities have sent assistance to the West Kelowna, West side (area C), Lake Country and Kelowna fires allowing for attack and suppression squads of 500 men during the day and 100 crew at night to battle the various blazes. That overwhelming support has helped turn the fire back in many areas and saved hundreds of homes and thousands of acres of land.
Yesterday it was nearly impossible to know when nighttime arrived as the skies were a dark black or thick gray all day from the various fires all around us. As I write this very early Tuesday morning numbers of burned structures or lost lives are not official but suffice to say no matter the numbers the shock and loss is traumatic. Hardest hit is the north westside area along Westside Road where some 100 structures have been damaged. In West Kelowna the number is guesstimated at 90.
I suppose, considering where we live and the heat wave we have just gone through, we should not be shocked with this environmental assault by Mother Nature. We have been blessed by not having more lightning strikes and storms to work against us.
Some experts have suggested the weather should settle down this week and that the large fire crews will have the multiple site blazes under control. That may be more wishful thinking than science speaking.
Regardless of weather reports, those operating the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations facilities are only allowing evacuees to return to their homes or properties when deemed absolutely safe. Readers are begged to stay patient a bit longer and not add to the stress levels of those working the line.
If you know of anyone who may need a friendly couch or room, then please offer it to them.
My hat goes off to the many hotels, motels and businesses that are finding rooms for evacuees or out of town fire fighters. There are so many volunteers, companies and individuals that are doing what they can to make these difficult times easer. It makes me proud as a Kelowna resident to see people lending a caring hand and helping when needed like this.
Be very careful with your health. The air quality is terrible and dangerous, especially if you have asthma, Emphysema, or a compromised respiratory system. Be smart by being safe if the smoke in your area is heavy.
If you have a smart employer then take the day off, otherwise call in sick, (you are entitled to sick days) or a day off in your holiday package. Either way try to be cautious.
Inside is exactly where most readers should be today and perhaps for a few more days (hopefully) until the angry fires have burned themselves out.