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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Westbank fire causes evacuation of thousands

View of the fire from WestbankImage via Wikipedia
Triggers... triggers... and some high emotions swirled through both GB (gamerboy) and myself yesterday when the news broke that a fire had started in Westbank around 3 in the afternoon and was raging out of control.

Back in 2003 Kelowna had one of the worst fires in British Columbia history. 239 homes were destroyed, thousands evacuated as we watched for over a month the hills burn alive with bright embers that were so brilliantly beautiful to watch, but so scary to think about especially since we'd lived there during the course of this treacherous and emotional event.

GB and I decided to move to Kelowna the month the fire broke. It was strange, too. One of my bff's T whom we lived next door to in Abbey told me not to go. She'd had a dream I was in a fire or near a fire off the apartment I lived in.
But off we went.

I was beginning a new chapter in life as a single mom. I wanted a change of scenery and had never moved far away from my parents and wanted to try it. Plus GB's biological father lived up in Vernon and thought it would benefit my son to be around him (another story for another time).

I remember how enamored with firemen and bright shiny trucks he was back then. We would walk around town with him wearing his fire jacket while he told everyone (who already knew) the town was on fire and how cool it was lol.

Well it wasn't so cool yesterday when we heard the news about Westbank.

The heavy heat and humidity caused the area to be so dry and with winds gusting at almost up to 60km an hour, the fire began and jumped out of control just off of Glenrosa, later hopping the highway to entering neighboring areas causing the evacuation of the first 10,000 people.

My mom immediately called her sister who is just off Glenrosa and she was okay at the time. An hour later we called and no answer, she'd been evacuated as the fire was burning just above her home.

Highway 97 was closed leading into Kelowna and the only route into the city was through back roads and woods. Mmmm not tempting as everyone lay glued to the news on alert as the fire continued.

I called Shoelessmommy she was camping with friends and I wanted to inform her what was going on since I knew she had no television and no data device too hear about this. One of her good friends lived off Glenrosa and I thought she'd be concerned. Her friend had been evacuated as well at around four pm.

My biggest concern though wasn't so much the fire as it was GB. His biological father still lives up in Kelowna and guess where? Yep, Westbank.

We couldn't reach Tom on his cell phone, most likely because he didn't have minutes. I sent him a text message letting him know to call his son as well as two emails.

GB sat in DH's (dear hubby's) arms and cried and cried. He was so worried about Tom and then later that worry turned to anger, for both of us.
What kind of person doesn't call his ten year old son knowing his son most likely saw the news and was worried?

Then I told myself that he was probably taking care of himself and just didn't think about GB. They haven't seen one another in over two years and are just beginning to establish a relationship with one another again, and I told GB (wiping his tears) his dad was probably okay since nobody had been injured from fire, but only evacuated.

Still that didn't make my ten year old son who is emotional and wears his heart on his sleeve like his mum very happy. We ended up snuggling downstairs all night together because he needed that comfort.

My stepson Cole also lives in the region, but in Kelowna where it is safe. Still DH called him since he knew that his grandparents were in Westbank and wanted to make sure his son was emotionally alright. We are supposed to be picking Cole up next week for family vaca for two weeks, but now we have to wait and see if the roads will even be open heading into Kelowna.

Firefighters hope to make a dent in the fire today (Sunday) with the warmer weather calming some, along with the winds slowing down.

100 hectares in Rose Valley have been lost, 10 km north of Genrosa where the fire first broke. Difficult terrain is causing firefighters to have their work cut out for them.

You could see water bombers dropping loads on the news and hear the helicopters and planes in the background with each report that came flooding into the television station from local residents sending in videos, texts and images via cell phones and web cams. It was quite surreal watching.

Cost is not an issue in fighting these fire, the minister told Global news. Everything they have will be put into stopping them. That was seen when another 120 men joined the forces on the front lines Sunday morning.

The firefighters courage has never been an issue though. That was clearly seen back in 2003 as the men worked around the clock, some of them watching own homes burn around them.

Nearly 10,000 people have been evacuated now with more on alert in the area. The fire has taken nine homes with no injuries to report as of yet, and more homes are expected to be destroyed, though the men on the front lines have high hopes that today's weather might cut them some slack.

When it first broke it was reported only 15 hectares. By the afternoon it had jumped to 50 hectares. By late evening the fires had totaled up to 500 hectares (300 in the Glenrosa) area alone.
It's just awful!

Residents in Gellatly Bay, Seclusion Bay, Witworth Road and Goat’s Peak were all ordered along with Rose Valley and Glenrosa residents which brought the total to 10,000 people out of their homes with no way into the city and all most likely heading to the emergency shelters set up on the outskirts of town at community centers and halls.

The following areas were placed on evacuation alert as well:
○ Hwy 97 west of Elliot Road
○ South Rubicon Road, south and west of Smith Creek Road
○ Paynter Road
○ Glencoe Road
○ Windt Road
○ Pop Road, Scharf Road
○ Solar Road
○ Delray Road, Shelter Road
○ Broadview/Elliot Road (this is the eastern boundary of alert area)
○ Telcor Place, Twin Pl, Sandberg Rd, Doucette Drive, Summerville Crt
○ Summerville Place, Salish Road, Harold Road, Sugosa Place
○ Rubicon Road, Reece Road west of Elliot Road, Neufield Crescent
○ Rufli Road
○ Butt Road west of Elliot Road, Main Street west of Elliot Road
○ Taneda Road and Lower Glenrosa Road between Delray and Powers Creek

Residents who want information on evacuation procedures or updates are being asked to call 250-469-8490 and if they can't make it to the evacuation center are being asked to call this number 778-797-2269 and register by phone so that loved ones who call in will be told of their safety.

Thank you to roleypoley for providing this video to us via youtube. My prayers go out to all my loved ones (auntie Wannie, Tom, Cole's grandparents and all our friends who live there.) I won't lie I'm glad I moved lol.

We love you be safe!

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