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.