The residents of Kelowna, British Columbia, who hail from Thunder Bay, Ontario, have been living on a knife’s edge, observing homes obliterated by inferno and inhaling the heavy, smoky air of the wildfire.
The menacing McDougall Creek wildfire that enveloped the area of Kelowna during the week of August 14, forced hundreds to evacuate. The city of West Kelowna bore the brunt as the wildfire consumed homes and businesses, claimed the historic Lake Okanagan Resort, before treacherously hopping across the lake to the city of Kelowna. Official reports drawn on Wednesday disclosed that the fire pitilessly annihilated more than 180 properties.
Kelowna inhabitant, teacher and parent, Andrew Bryan, found it surreal and unsettling to witness people losing their homes across the distanced waters, feeling an urgent sense of vulnerability imagining the potential loss of his own dwelling. Bryan, who hails from Thunder Bay, resides in the southern part of Kelowna, near the renowned orchards, calculated that the likelihood of his house being impacted by the wildfire was under five per cent. Nevertheless, he refrained from complacency.
The fire helped debunk the prevailing belief that they were immune to the wildfire, especially that it couldn’t leap across the lake. Bryan, in his magnanimity, opened his home to shelter those in need, hosting a family of friends alongside a Filipina woman and her young son.
For three consecutive days, the refuge inhabitants lived in utmost confinement, breathing the acrid air turned ominously black and yellow from the smoke by creating makeshift air purifiers from furnace filters and box fans. Bryan described the experienced horror akin to a scene extracted from an apocalyptic movie.
Born in Thunder Bay and an athlete now based in Kelowna, Mia Serratore, too, construed the horrific happenings in resemblances to an apocalypse. When the fire first approached Kelowna, Serratore was camping in the United States and struggled to stay updated given the news blackout by Meta – the parent company of Facebook and Instagram – in response to Canada’s Online News Act.
Eventually, through videos shot by the locals in Kelowna, she got a glimpse of the raging fire from across the lake. It was an unnerving spectacle, unlike anything she’d witnessed before. On her return to the city on Sunday, she noticed the smoke growing denser as she neared the city, reaching levels that impeded sight.
While both Bryan and Serratore were lucky not to lose their homes to the rampant fire, Bryan revealed the tragic fate of a camper from his children’s summer camp, who lost two homes in quick succession – first, her own home, and then the friend’s house in West Kelowna to which she had moved.