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The resiliency of the Okanagan community: Grouse Complex wildfire

A look back at the community coming together
(Mamas for Mamas/Submitted)

When smoke filled the air and chaos filled the streets, devastation was on the mind of every person in the Okanagan as they woke up on the morning of Aug. 18. However, a light from the hearts of residents shined through as people came together to support the community.

As the McDougall Creek Wildfire in West Kelowna surged towards Okanagan Lake, hundreds of people lined the shore to comfort each other and watch in disbelief, while others were called to action.

When fires threatened care homes and senior residences in West Kelowna, hundreds of medically vulnerable people were evacuated with nowhere to go. While other people were busy preparing go-bags, staff from the Kelowna General Hospital volunteered to return to work to prepare for and care for the surge in patients.

Neighbours came together in the darkness to help each other pack, load up terrified animals and evacuate.

Online, strangers worked to help people whom they had never met find places to sleep. People opened their homes to folks who were evacuated, with some offering strangers – and their pets – a spot on the floor of their cramped studio apartment.

On the front lines, firefighters worked through the night to protect buildings from the aggressive flames.

Volunteers from the Central Okanagan Search and Rescue organization were mobilized to neighbourhoods near the fires to help the RCMP knock on every door and tell families that they had to leave their homes.

Donations flooded into the Central Okanagan Foundation wildfire response fund, the Red Cross and the United Way– from around the world. Charities like Mamas for Mamas jumped into action, mobilizing their resources to immediately help those in need.

Restaurants served free food and offered a momentary reprieve for people evacuated by the fires. Animal rescue organizations and vet clinics took in animals from families who had to leave their homes.

Businesses around the Okanagan gathered donations and people gave everything that they could to help people in need.

Fire halls around Central Okanagan had to ask the public to stop bringing donations as they could not accommodate the outpouring of love that was being dropped off.

Immediately when news of the fire spread, firefighters travelled from across the province, the country and the world, to protect our community.

During the fight, thirteen firefighters lost their homes while they were working on the front lines.

Despite the loss, the firefighters continued to fight, unwavering in their dedication to their community.

In the days after the fire’s initial night of destruction, fundraisers were organized for people who had lost their homes and those who were displaced.

While the Grouse Complex wildfire fire is now considered to be under control, hot spots still remain as is the love that residents have for their community and those that call the Central Okanagan home.

Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

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