Saturday, 25 July 2009


Although this happened almost a week ago, it's taken me awhile to blog about the West Kelowna fires as I've been really busy this past week.

Last weekend, my eldest daughter and her boyfriend went up to the boyfriend's parents' vacation home in West Kelowna.

Kelowna is in a part of Canada called the Okanagan which is renown for its lakes, hot temperatures, and slow paced holiday lifestyle.

Saturday afternoon, I got the call that the boyfriend's Jeep had a coolant leak and needed a new radiator. Luckily, the shop had one in stock and would finish it the next day.

A couple of hours later, we learned of the beginning of the West Kelowna fire. It started in a place called Glen Rosa. As the afternoon progressed to evening, I monitored the fire. First 1000, then 2000, then 3000 people were evacuated and more were put on alert. The fire grew to almost 100 hectares but was still about 6 km from the vacation home.

At around 10 o'clock, there reports on Twitter of a new fire in Rose Valley - which was only a couple of kilometres from my daughter. I was getting nervous. We talked with my daughter, the boyfriend, his dad and each other until about midnight. The evacuation alert was growing but still did not affect them. I told my daughter to pack her suitcase,. leave the door unlocked and make sure she woke if someone came. As she didn't sleep all night, that wasn't a problem.

As things developed, I came to some conclusions. First, Twitter was an excellent source for the fire. By simply searching #kelownafire, I was able to get up-to-the-minute reports, links, and maps from many different people. Finally, a really useful application of Twitter!

Second, Kelowna radio (AM 1130) on the web was also a very good source of information. Although their website could have been better organized, the radio reports were frequent and current.

Finally, I concluded that Global TV was brutal. The news was old, the map of the affected area was laughable tiny and lacking in detail, the information was often inaccurate, and they played the same video clips over and over and over.

On Sunday morning, I reassembled the Firewatch Control Centre (TV, laptop, desktop, phones). Our first scrap of information from our daughter was that she was on evacuation alert now!

We encouraged them to set out for the repair shop and wait out the repairs in safety but, when they phoned, the shop said that they had the wrong kind of radiator and that it wouldn't be ready until Tuesday.

At that point, we decided t go on a rescue mission and pick them up!

Six and a half hours later and we got them from a shopping mall in Kelowna proper. The photos from today's blog were all taken at that time. Five and a half hours later, we were home.

A few days later and the fires are mostly under control and most of the 10,000 evacuees are back home. Three houses were destroyed by the fires - it could have been so much worse.

And when the boyfriend's dad flew up to pick up the Jeep yesterday, after about 10 minutes on the road, the axle broke!

I'm sure glad we went up and rescued 'em!


Baron's Life said...

And I'm sure glad they were safe...what an ordeal...thanks for sharing the story

bobskoot said...


We were in Kelowna that weekend for the Kelowna Scooter Rally. Our group rides took us up Glen Rosa and we rode on many of those roads that got closed and ended up on Westside Road up to Bear Creek Park. That was around 2:30-3pm. Little did we know that the fire was starting on the other side of the same mountain. It took me 4 hours to get back to Merritt via: Vernon and Kamloops on my bike. Glad everything worked out okay with your rescue plan

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Dave Dixon said...

Baron - it was an ordeal - thanks for reading.

Bob - I sure wasn't the only one that wanted to get the heck out of there - hope the rally was OK!