Sep 07, 2020

Smoke and sirens woke us at 4:45AM this morning

We had no idea what was going on or even if the fire was in our park. While Colin took the golf cart to check it out I began making piles of necessities to evacuate with. It was warm last night and we slept with all the windows wide open. The smoke was blowing directly into our home and I could not stop coughing. Fortunately we have a box full of insurance documents, house plans and photos, legal documents and a multitude on things we feel is a top priority already packed and ready to go. We even had a list of things to do such as shut off the propane to the house and the power to the house. Today I added putting the safe deposit box key on the list of things to pack.  Hmmm, actually we have list of last minute things to pack, I just recalled that. In the panic neither of us remembered that. I better find out where it is. Colin came back and confirmed that the fire was in fact within our park ( my heart sank ) and was serious but we were not required to evacuate. Some neighbours were out on the street, not sure what to do. I called my good friend “I” down the street and told her to get ready just in case.

Colin took his camera with him and this is what he saw. The sirens went on for a long time. Apparently they called in all units from Vernon to West Kelowna. We are over 500 homes in this park and it could have been disaster. In the end we ended up with nine large fire trucks, the others were called off once the command vehicle assessed the situation.  Five trucks were in the parking lot you see and another four were on the street behind.  All pouring water on the fire from high up. Yes that is an RV and truck in the foreground. It took awhile to find the owner to move it out of the way.

The Italian Kitchen Restaurant was engulfed in flame – that is where we had our anniversary dinner back in July and where we often dine when friends come to visit. Sadly the folks who run the restaurant have decided to pack it in.

I took this from an online photo taken by someone here in the park.

As daybreak approached it was easier to see how much of the building was involved.

This is taken from the street behind.

Colin came back and gave me his photos which I sent to Castanet, our main online news source. They were not yet open so I sent a selection of photos and an email. You can read about that by clicking here. They did not use our photos, I guess someone had sent in a cell phone photo while onsite but they used my words and name.  Throughout the morning a few updates were made and at 11:45AM a video was added to that same link. You can see the flames in that two minute video and also an interview of the owner of our park.  My blurb is at the bottom of the story as well as a description of which fire vehicles were here. It was not long before the adjoining business, the Country Store was engulfed in flames as well. As an aside, I felt comforted when a few friends, one who is in Victoria and used to live here, emailed me as they read about the fire online. The entrance to the park is north of our home and we are south of the property border right on the lake. It is a large park with 64 acres. This had the potential to be a great disaster. The location of the building where the fire was is right at the entrance to the park and the homes are separated by a large parking lot. That is what saved us.  We all knew that our homes would not be here had the fire spread. The firefighters did a wonderful job and no one was hurt. The fire as mentioned in the online news article has been deemed suspicious. More on that as details become available.

I took this from our home looking towards the fire.

As it got lighter I felt compelled to see what was happening so Colin and I went back in the golf cart. By now I was more or less dressed and had brushed my teeth – most important 🙂

The wind had picked up. We had a forecast for winds of 20 to 40 with gusts to 60 km/h. This flag shows how the wind came up suddenly. Between the flag and the tree to the left is the same fire ladder in the photo above, it was covered in smoke within seconds.

Needless to say the main entrance was closed and anyone driving in or out needed to use the backup entrance by the dog park ( inside the fenced area ). I can’t remember the time here, perhaps between 6:30 and 7:00AM. The flames are now shooting out of the Country Store. The man walking towards us is the security guard who was on duty and called the fire in.  He was rather shaken and obviously exhausted. He did tell us that he heard a loud explosion which led him to investigate and discover the fire.

As we returned home, we heard fire truck sirens on the highway heading towards the airport. Some of our fire trucks had left our park to attend to yet another large fire. Turns out that it was a legal marijuana grow-op that caught fire and because of the increased winds it became a larger problem.  That also was dealt with. They say that by 8AM, our park fire was under control but still burning. What a long 3 hours and 15 minutes. Our local and Kelowna fire fighters certainly worked hard today. Yet a third fire was started close to Kekuli Bay ( just south of Vernon ) this afternoon and is still burning and is estimated to be 25 hectares. This one was started by a truck that had caught fire and was towing a trailer & stopped at the side of the road which ignited the fire. Quite the day for fires in our area.

Colin had a job today ( a new and unexpected one ), he was very tired from getting up so early and took a nap before he left. Traffic was still being directed to the backup entrance by the dog park.  I decided to take a walk along the back path between the tall cedar hedge and the storage lot to see the fire damage. By now I had discovered that many had slept though the entire fire and others even at 10AM had no idea that there had even been a fire, never mind such a devastating fire. Others were now making plans what to do if this happened again. Folks were gathered in small groups all over the park. Now that the winds had picked up the smell of smoke was even stronger. Up until about 3PM our house still was smoky and then the smell slowly dissipated. The clothes that we wore hung outside all day and still smell a bit.

I was surprised to see so much water in the storage yard. Then it struck me, of course, all the water from the fire trucks.

Our RV is at the far side of the storage lot and did not have much water near it. This fire has affected many areas that are yet to be determined. One is our garbage bin and compactor.  The electricity to run the compactor came from the building that was burning.

The first thing I saw at the end of the path I was walking on. The building is destroyed.

I was amazed that the shelves in the Country Store are still standing. It looks like the fire tore through the upper floor, however I know that there must be a good deal of water damage on the main floor.

Checking inch by inch for hot spots.

This is a day that we won’t be forgetting for a long while, if ever.  Will 2020 ever end 😯




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17 responses so far

17 Responses to “Smoke and sirens woke us at 4:45AM this morning”

  1. Kay says:

    Contessa, to get the smell of smoke out of clothing, wash with reg soap and white vinegar. I would also add some vinegar to the rinse cycle too. When our house burned down, the little bit I salvage, I used white vinegar to get the smell out. That fire is so very sad.

  2. Linda and Russell says:

    Glad you’re both ok…fire is so scary and unpredictable!

  3. Lucy says:

    Oh my Contessa, your area is beginning to look like our California, so sorry !! My regards: Lucy.

  4. Jannose says:

    Wow, that is so sad. Devastating for the park for sure.

  5. Having been through a House Fire ourselves we know what it feels like. Hoping the Business Owners can rebuild.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It’s about time.

  6. Stacie says:

    That’s so sad about the fire at the restaurant! That was one of the big selling features of the place for rent at your park … we thought it would be great to be able to get a yummy dinner within walking distance.

    Sure glad it wasn’t your place that burnt down!

  7. Rae says:

    I was literally holding my breath reading your last blog post. *hugs*

  8. Ken says:

    There goes your favourite eating place. Sad, lots of memories.

  9. Paul says:

    Dear Contessa and Colin,

    We are shocked… So sad…

    That was a staple of the park.

    There are no words at this time to comfort you. Just grateful that you weren’t hurt.

    Much love,

    Paul and Jan

  10. Linda Sand says:

    I am so glad you are safe!

    Putting items in a closed container with charcoal briquettes will also help remove odors.

  11. Maxx Trails says:

    We were staying at an RV park in Desert Hot Springs a few years ago when a fire broke out in their main clubhouse in the early morning hours. That was scary so I can imagine how you guys must have felt not knowing if you were going to loose your home. When I saw the headline on Castanet my first thought was if you guys were okay and I’m so glad that you are! But how sad that the Italian Kitchen won’t reopen, it was such a great restaurant :=(

  12. Judith says:

    So glad you are safe. A horrifying experience. In 2011 I was living out in the boonies here, one road in, one road out, and there were fires all over the place for about a month. A hot, warm and WINDY (Texas) January.I have not forgotten the feeling of going out to smell for smoke and trying to determine the direction. I hope this fire has taken care of the approach to where you live, so another will have a hard time of doing much. (There was a pond by our house. I used to imagine jumping in, as a last resort, putting the cat in a styrofoam cooler with some holes poked in on top, and my wheelchair bound husband in as well, saying FLOAT! You do have that lake if that’s all you’ve got!) So glad you are well.

  13. Dolores says:

    Oh my gosh!!!!! Glad mostly all and u both are ok….

  14. Karen says:

    Well that’s a heck of a lot more information than our morning news coverage that’s incredible I’m so happy that no one was hurt and can only hope they catch the asses that had anything to do with the destruction of property what a thing to wake up to.

  15. Paul says:

    Grateful that you were NOT hurt!….

    That was one of our favourite restaurants. We are going to miss it…

    This is not a good year. Like you said. But we have some great
    Memories with you at that restaurant.

    Hugs to you and Colin.

  16. Croft Randle says:

    Wow! Glad you are OK! We have eaten at that restaurant a couple of times. I hope they rebuild.

  17. SandyM says:

    So very glad the fire was contained as much as it was. Happy you are safe.

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