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Documentary relives impact of Okanagan Mountain Park fire

The Okanagan Mountain Park fire in 2003 as it approached the Kettle Valley subdivision.  - Capital News File
The Okanagan Mountain Park fire in 2003 as it approached the Kettle Valley subdivision.
— image credit: Capital News File

To commemorate a significant event in the history of Kelowna, a new documentary film about the Okanagan Mountain Park fire of 2003 will be premiered on Aug. 16, 7 p.m., at the Paramount Theatre downtown on Bernard Avenue.

The premiere date for the film Firestorm: Out of the Ashes coincides with the 10th anniversary of the lightning strike on Squally Point at Rattlesnake Island that spread across the eastern shoreline of Okanagan Lake.

The fire eventually spread into the Upper Mission area destroying many homes and then carried on into Myra Canyon where it damaged a number of historic Kettle Valley Railway trestles.

It forced the evacuation of 27,000 residents and close to 62,000 acres. More than 60 fire departments from across B.C. and Alberta along with 1,400 Armed Forces personnel and 1,000 forest fire firefighters were call in to help battle the blaze.

All the damage has since been repaired and rebuilt, but the memories of that fire carry on as it marked the beginning of a decade since where forest fires have become an annual summer concern in the Central Okanagan.

Already this summer, there have been four forest fires—one in West Kelowna, another north of the Kelowna airport, and two last week in Peachland and Glenmore—that have required firefighter and air support response to keep them from spreading out of control.

Melissa Johnson, creator of the documentary, says the 2003 fire was one event that translated into so many difference experiences for people.

“The stories are so diverse, from St. Hubertus to City Hall, connecting with the people and their stories has been an experience in itself that I will never forget,” Johnson said.

Having a Kelowna based documentary film company produce the film has also made the creating of Firestorm even more of a community undertaking.

Director Jiri Bakala, of Ascent Films Inc., has drawn from a pool of Okanagan talent to help contribute to the making of this film. Some of the photographs used in the film were taken by award winning photographer Gary Nylander, and are featured alongside music by composer Kenton Gilchrist. The film was edited by Steven Antturi.

Tickets for the documentary's premiere are available for $10 online at www.ascentfilms.com/firestorm, as well as at the Paramount Theatre on Bernard, Bella Clothing on Pandosy Street, and at the Lake Country Art Gallery.

To purchase tickets for this event and to find out more information www.ascentfilms.com/firestorm.

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