Okanagan Panorama

Monday, 23 July 2018 10:52

Smokanagan 2018: Smoke on the Water - Fire in the Hills

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Smokanagan 2018: Smoke on the Water, Fire in the HillsOnce upon a time, the hot dry summers of the Okanagan Valley were anticipated by its citizens and tourists from far off lands … well, at least from Alberta. Sun worshippers would travel here to languish in the endless sunshine and take in all the benefits the Okanagan lifestyle has to offer.

That Okanagan summer vacation destination perspective may become a distant memory if the trend of the past few years continues.

The electrical storm of last week sparked at least seven different forest fires in a twenty-mile radius of Kelowna, with more seemingly random fires popping up on a daily basis.

We are a Valley under siege by Mother Nature. The fires and the damage they cause are horrific. Firefighters are staying ahead of this round of the battle and I don’t believe there has been any major property loss i.e. buildings and homes.

Even if you don’t live in the fire’s path, you are likely affected vicariously by the fires. Smoke over the Valley is seen in every direction. We are recycling the smoke-filled air with our lungs. What will the long-term effect be to us? As non-smokers, will our lungs catch up to our smoker colleagues? Probably not, but you still have to wonder.

I believe that every local fire triggers our collective PTSD from having experienced the Okanagan Mountain Fire of 2003. Each of us has our own recollections of how that played out. Over 200 houses were lost in that disaster.

Crawford Estates was one of the residential areas devastated. My wife and I had build two houses in the neighborhood in the nineties and had relocated a year before the fire ravished the neighborhood. The two houses we had build and lived in for almost a decade and all of our neighbors were flash burned in a matter of seconds.

Even though we didn’t live there at the time, we were still affected by the losses of our neighbors. Living across town from the fires, we still weren’t safe. In the last few days of the fire our subdivision was evacuated as they were concerned the fire was going to jump Highway 33. If it did, it would have been a clear path to Big White.

Trying to evacuate the family and get onto the Highway, with an endless ribbon of headlights and taillights from a stream of vehicles, will be something I will remember for a long time.

Last summer, we were on edge with a large fire, some fifteen miles as the crow flies, directly behind us in the Joe Rich area. We were glued to Castanet, watching for evacuation orders.

Our new summer norm, or at least a large amount of it is spent trying to reduce our smoke exposure. Reddened, itchy eyes and runny noses seem to be common as are people out-and about wearing surgical respiratory masks. I’m not sure how effective they are from keeping the fly ash out of their lungs. I hear from family members working with the public in the service industry that there are many cranky people out there lately.

For those of us that commute between Kelowna and Penticton and the interconnecting towns for work or business, it has been stressful. I have had to stay tuned to Castanet to see if Highway 97 is open, so that I can get to work and hopefully back. Once I’m on my journey I’m at the mercy of Mother Nature as to whether I make my destination or not, or spend a few hours waiting in a line-up of vehicles as the highway has been closed.

On my commutes over this past weekend, I observed at least a dozen areas that the fire had burned right up to the pavement. That would be have been quite scary driving along the highway as the hills were raging in flames, mere metres from you.

My wife is being proactive this year. She has all of our family pictures, especially those that can’t be replaced, piled up at the front door to be grabbed at a moment’s notice if we need to evacuate. I’m not sure where we would evacuate to though?

I’m a believer of every day above ground is a good one. I would like to extend that quite a bit longer … thank you very much!

I’m grateful for the men and women who serve as firefighters who risk their own personal safety and health to put out the forest fires and protect us.

I’m also grateful for having central air-conditioning so that I can keep my windows closed and keep the oppressive smoke out. I’m not looking forward to the hydro bill though as last July was over $450.00.

I’m also grateful that Fall is on its way, bringing the end of the Okanagan Fire season.

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Rae Stonehouse

Author Bio:

Rae A. Stonehouse is a Canadian born author & speaker. His professional career as a Registered Nurse working predominantly in psychiatry/mental health, has spanned four decades.

Rae has embraced the principal of CANI (Constant and Never-ending Improvement) as promoted by thought leaders such as Tony Robbins and brings that philosophy to each of his publications and presentations.

Rae has dedicated the latter segment of his journey through life to overcoming his personal inhibitions. As a 27+ year member of Toastmasters International he has systematically built his self-confidence and communicating ability. He is passionate about sharing his lessons with his readers and listeners. His publications thus far are of the personal/professional self-help, self-improvement genre and systematically offer valuable sage advice on a specific topic.

His writing style can be described as being conversational. As an author Rae strives to have a one-to-one conversation with each of his readers, very much like having your own personal self-development coach. Rae is known for having a wry sense of humour that features in his publications.


Author of Self-Help Downloadable E-Books, paperbacks and on-line courses:


Power Networking for Shy PeoplePower Networking for Shy People: How to Network Like a Pro

52 Power Networking Tips: How to Network Like a Pro

PROtect Yourself Now!PROtect Yourself Now! Violence Prevention for Healthcare Workers

The Savvy Emcee: How to be a Dynamic Master of Ceremonies.

Power of Promotion: On-line Marketing for Toastmasters Club Growth

You're Hired! Job Search Strategies That Work: Available as an easily downloadable e-book or as an on-line e-course.

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Blow Your Own Horn! Personal Branding for Business Professionals

Make it Safe! A Family Caregiver's Home Safety Assessment Guide for Supporting Elders@Home


Phone Rae 250-451-6564 or info@raestonehouse.com

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Copyright 2018- 2021 Rae A. Stonehouse.

The above document may be freely copied and distributed as long as the author’s name and contact info remain attached.


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