January 02, 2015 - 2:30 PM
THIS WEEK, INFONEWS.CA IS COUNTING DOWN THE TOP FIVE NEWSMAKERS OF 2014. TODAY: NUMBER ONE
KELOWNA — The sight of helicopters bucketing water, planes dropping retardant and a giant plume of smoke has become part of the Okanagan summer. This year was a long fire season highlighted by the evacuation of 2,500 people in West Kelowna and that makes the Smith Creek fire our Newsmaker of the Year.
A long, dry spell, a 38 Celsius day and a huge swath of forest created perfect conditions for a fire that started July 17, started by sparks from a campfire on private property. Two days earlier, West Kelowna Fire Rescue crews put out another fire believed to be from the same source.
The fire once again highlighted the risks of living in forest interface areas — where neighbourhoods are built against forest lands. While Tallus Ridge has a healthy buffer, Smith Creek has no insulation.
While no one was hurt and no homes were lost, entire neighbourhoods were evacuated, some as long as two weeks. We all probably know someone or remember being evacuated from the Glenrosa, Rose Valley and Terrace Mountain fires in 2009 and of course the Okanagan Mountain Park fire that evacuated half the city and burned 238 homes in 2003.
It seems inconceivable, given the now-common scenes of wildfire fighting in the Central Okanagan, that so many fires are still caused by careless people. Local firefighters worked for days and forestry crews worked for weeks to extinguish the last spot fire. This is likely not the last time fire will be the top newsmaker of the year.
One of nearly 30 thank you signs posted around the community.
(JENNIFER STAHN /InfoTel Multimedia)
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015