Gallery: Okanagan Falls community thanks firefighters following Christie Mountain fire

Blasted Church winery in Okanagan Falls has painted a large ‘thank you’ sign as a tribute to those to fought the Christie Mountain wildfire. (Phil McLachlan - Western News)
Blasted Church Winery winemaker, Evan Saunders. (Phil McLachlan - Western News)
(Phil McLachlan - Western News)
(Phil McLachlan - Western News)
Blasted Church Winery winemaker, Evan Saunders. (Phil McLachlan - Western News)
(Phil McLachlan - Western News)
(Phil McLachlan - Western News)
(Phil McLachlan - Western News)
(Phil McLachlan - Western News)
(Phil McLachlan - Western News)
(Phil McLachlan - Western News)

August 18 was a regular work day for many, including those at the Blasted Church winery in Okanagan Falls, until a plume of smoke started rising from the mountainside nearby.

“It’s the Okanagan so you see them all the time, and (you) kind of assume that nothing would really come of it, but as the fire was rushing down over the hill towards us, (we) realized it was… a more serious situation than we might have thought initially,” said Blasted Church Winery winemaker, Evan Saunders.

Leaving their property on a whim, not knowing what they may come back to, was stressful for many at the business. This anxiety was shared by many around the community of Okanagan Falls who were also forced to evacuate their homes.

Weeks later, with the fire calmed down and remaining as held by BC Wildfire crews, Blasted Church is back in business.

On Wednesday, Sept. 2, winery staff gathered around a newly painted sign in their driveway, which reads “thank you” with praying hands illustrated beside it. They transformed their driveway into a sign of thanks as a tribute to crews who helped protect their community from the Christie Mountain wildfire.

Although firefighting activity has slowed, six helicopters continue to attack the fire. Now, these pilots will likely see this message while flying over Okanagan Falls.

“Here we still stand, so the big ‘thank you’ (is) kind of a tribute to all the work the firefighters did to keep us here,” said Saunders. “A big thanks to all the firefighters.”

Around the Okanagan Falls community, signs remain standing at the end of driveways, erected by residents thanking firefighters as they drove in to fight the blaze.

READ MORE: North Okanagan firefighters answer call to south

READ MORE: Christie Mountain wildfire crews burning single trees, scanning mountainside for hot spots

Staff at Blasted Church were among the first to call in the fire the day it was discovered, and they were also some of the first to be evacuated. Their staff, who live just across the street from the winery, as well as owner Evelyn Campbell had to pack what they could, and leave.

“You grab a few things that are important to you, whether it’s a case of wine, or documents, and hit the road,” said Saunders.

Realizing the fire was out of control, and how close it is to homes on the mountainside, Saunders said hit home in a different way.

“It was a pretty scary thing, a pretty fast-moving fire… it started leaping from tree to tree down the front hill.”

As Saunders describes the first day of the fire, the mountain behind him is stained red with lines of fire retardant. Like their freshly painted driveway sign, Saunders said the red lines will also likely be there for some time.

Fortunately for their crops, Blasted Church sources their water from Skaha Lake using a pumphouse, and has not been affected by water restrictions like the majority of the Okanagan Falls community. However fruit businesses affected by the restrictions may result in a high amount of stress put on crops during a critical point in their growing season.

Returning to normal has been a slow process, the winemaker explained. In addition to the many steps it took to return to their properties, Saunders said seven days away from their work has set their business back during one of the busiest times of the year.

Next, farmers, including the roughly 20 staff at Blasted Church, are focusing on preparing for harvest.

“Everyone is sort of all hands on deck right now, and we’re working through,” Saunders said.

READ MORE: Suspected arsonist arrested after fleeing from Penticton RCMP

READ MORE: Truck reported stolen in Greenwood held Penticton Indian Band councillor’s cultural object

READ MORE: Penticton man charged after allegedly holding girlfriend against her will

@PentictonNews
editor@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

wildfire

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tree replacement, construction scheduled for Kelowna’s Stuart Park

Sixteen trees are being removed because they are struggling, the city said

Okanagan whisky lottery adds new twists

Winners of Okanagan Spirits’ Laird of Fintry lottery announced in four batches beginning Sept. 28

BC Libertarian party names Kelowna West candidate

Matt Badura has been acclaimed as Kelowna West’s Libertarian candidate in the upcoming provincial election

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

Few are actually restricting the total number of skiers they allow on the hill

Three arrested after Keremeos shooting that severely injured one man

The victim was transported by air ambulance to a regional hospital

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Victoria-area RCMP locate high-risk sex offender thanks to help of taxi cab driver

Scott Jones wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, ‘a risk to women and girls,’ police say

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A (virtual) walk around the world by 88-year-old B.C. man

George Doi says it’s simple: ‘I like walking’

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

West Kelowna Warriors complete sweep of Vernon Vipers

Warriors edge Snakes 2-1 as Okanagan Cup BCHL exhibition tournament begins

Most Read