“The community has come together in profound ways,” Gary Juniper told the Observer from Kelowna on Monday morning.
Mr. Juniper, who has a vacation home in Sandspit and spends time on the islands each year, lives about 5-kilometres from the Kelowna fire, close enough that on Saturday morning he had to sweep a carpet of ash and embers off his deck. “When I got up, I swept off my deck an inch of pine needles and cold embers, silver-dollar size,” he said, “if you’re half a kilometre away and the embers are still hot when they hit the houseÂ….pretty wild stuff,” he said.
But he says the community spirit in Kelowna is remarkable.
“People have their doors open. There’s a list of 3,000 people, we’re on it, (ready) to provide accommodation, ” he said, “Someone referred to it as Kelowna’s 9-11. Really, it’s the most devastating fire in the history of BC.”
About 20,000 people were evacuated from their homes Friday night, and 244 of those home were destroyed by the fire, with property damage by one estimate running close to $100-million.
“The whole town was just buzzing, the traffic patterns had totally changed,” Mr. Juniper said, “Â…it was an extraordinary sight on Friday night, absolutely extraordinary. That’s when the fire went completely out of control. We had 60 km/hour winds that evening.”
He says the situation was a lot better on Monday, with the winds much less intense and the temperatures dropping, all of which helps the firefighters. As well, more than 6,000 people had been allowed back home as of Monday morning.
Mr. Juniper has no plans to leave Kelowna himself at the moment, but he says he’d like to head for Sandspit soon. “I sure would like to. Last year, we came up in October.”
Islanders who want to donate to the victims of the fire can call the visitor information centres, 637-5362 in Sandspit or 559-8316 in Queen Charlotte
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