Sunday August 15, 2021 a fire started on Mount Law above the information booth on Highway 97C, the Okanagan Connector, in between Peachland and West Kelowna. Within hours it reached 200 hectares, and by nightfall it had grown to 800 hectares. On the Glenrosa side in West Kelowna, homes were evacuated and many put on evacuation alert. It took a few days for the flames to reach the view from our deck in Peachland, and when it did it made for some incredible fire photos. And a lot of anxiety. My partner and I were in the Fort McMurray fire back in 2016. We knew all too well how a fire could jump a highway and embers can travel long distances.
From the first day the Mount Law fire began, we had bags packed and ready to go. Actually, with how many fires there have been in BC this summer, we already had our go bag ready and an emergency kit prepared. But now we made sure to really pack as if we had to leave. It looked worse at night, the side of the mountain lit up by fire. And every night we felt like tonight would be the night we were going to get a knock on the door while we were sleeping. It didn't come. But that didn't stop the worry. And then there was going to work. My biggest fear, much like in Fort Mac, is being able to get home in time to get the pets. We knew once an area went on an evacuation order, you weren't allowed in. Not even for pets. And if it jumped the highway into Peachland, I feel like we would likely go straight to an evacuation order with how close we are to the highway. This whole time, only a couple streets in Peachland went on alert in the first few days. But we didn't need an official status to know we needed to be prepared. My weekends have consisted of sitting. Watching. Photos. Pacing. Watching. Facebook. Pacing. Photos. Sitting. Watching. It's like a waiting game.
On Thursday August 26th we heard sirens when we woke up in the morning and it turns out the fire hopped the highway into an orchard by the overpass at the top of Drought Hill. We were about to head out to the lower mainland so after hearing that I made sure to pack a few extra things, juuust in case. I know the fire fighters were on it and it should all be okay, but you just never know. The last photos show our drive out that morning.
In the years after the Fort McMurray wildfire, I dealt with some PTSD. Especially that first year when I would see smoke of any sort. It's gotten a lot better over the years and I was actually surprised how well I was doing with a fire this close. And I'm wondering if it's a mindset change I've had now that I've decided I want to apply to the Peachland volunteer fire department when they start recruiting again. I have family who are also volunteer fire fighters in Barriere and am so inspired by all they do. I look at all the fires around us and wish there was more I could be doing to help.
Here are some highlights of the fire & fire fighting efforts from the Mount Law Fire. Check out the album on Facebook for the full set of pictures taken throughout this fire, including dates and times each photo was taken. I've seen some of these photos featured on Global Okanagan, Castanet, Infotel, and KelownaNow.
* Keep an eye out towards the end for the tiny workers in the photos. They looked like little ants and it really shows the scale of the fire compared to people. *