West Kelowna Wildfires - Summer 2009
From July 18 to 22, two forest fires threatened the safety of residents and property in West Kelowna, forcing the evacuation of approximately 12,500 residents. On July 18 at 2:30 p.m. a small fire buffering the hills of the Glenrosa neighbourhood was reported to West Kelowna Fire and Rescue; not far from the Gorman Sawmill. The fire appeared to grow quickly and the wind picked up.
The Regional Emergency Operation Centre was operational by 3 p.m. with support from neighbouring municipalities. Under 1 hour later, the State of Emergency was signed, allowing the municipality to evacuate the 3,000 homes in the Glenrosa neighbourhood.
Emergency Social Services were mobilized and opened an ESS Reception Centre at Royal LePage Place to receive evacuees. The Glenrosa fire spread quickly fueled by an unusual 60 km/hr wind. It grew to 50 hectares in size by 7 p.m. and spread east across Highway 97, burning the hills above the Gellatly area (Goat’s Peak). The highway was closed and by 8 p.m., the Gellatly Bay area was evacuated, approximately 1,500 more homes.
At 11 p.m. the Glenrosa/Gellatly fire had grown to 300 hectares and it was announced a second fire was burning in the Rose Valley area, forcing more evacuations. The Rose Valley Fire grew to 30 hectares by 1 a.m. and the entire Rose Valley community was evacuated in the middle of the night, 420 homes.
At 8 a.m. the following day, it was announced that three Glenrosa homes had been destroyed in the fire. No injuries were reported.
Results of the Fires
The fires burned for several days. At the height of the emergency 12,500 people were under evacuation order. Thousands more were placed on Evacuation Alert and were prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. West Kelowna Fire & Rescue and BC Forest Service held unified command throughout the West Kelowna fire threat. Hundreds of ground personnel, dozens of water bombers, helicopters and water tankers were deployed and the fires were fully contained by Wednesday July 22 with all Evacuation Orders lifted at 10:30 a.m. All Evacuation Alerts were lifted at 11 a.m. July 26.
Fire Relief Trust Fund
The District set up a Fire Relief Trust Fund to accept donations, distributed through a Community Needs Committee to affected property owners. Canadian Red Cross set up a West Kelowna Recovery Centre. The community, throughout the crisis, came out in droves to support each other, volunteering time, giving supplies and opening their homes to those in need.