Well, the fire is still out of control. Last night I stayed up until very late into the evening watching the details on the local news and the internet. For most of the night, our cable was on and off (some channels were completely gone for many hours while others were able to continue....thank you cable fairy...I was able to see the final wonderful results of "The 4th Amazing Race".....
That last couple of sentences is what life is like here. We are living in a very scary and significant event. It wasn't started by terrorists and there is no one to blame. We are having to deal with positive thinking and faith to know that all will be ok. However, the air is as smokey as it is ominous. There is a sort of "calm for for the storm" feeling. Horrible events are happening and we can see the effects (or lack of sight) but everyone is still trying to maintain "normalcy". The streets are filled with tourists and cars (what do Asian tourists find to photograph?). The school staff have been coming and going although some people were evacuated just last night. People are still out doing the same jobs and chores we would be doing if the sky were as blue as it is on the other side of the smoke. We try to not think of the events that are literally "in our face". However, unlike the other scares of this past year or two, there is no one to be angry with, there is no one to fear and somehow, that makes it sort of ok? Even the calm with which the evacuated people have been handling their fears and losses is such a strength to the rest of the community. Everyone is trying to pitch in with help in whatever way possible. We are amazed too at the amount of wonderful help we are receiving from fire fighters her from all over the two nations.
For those who are trying to get the perspective of our level of danger in this... Well, we are thankful that we didn't purchase in the areas that we had considered before our Westside purchase. The neighbourhoods effected were lovely, filled with trees, a good deal of room between the houses and all within a short walking distance of the Kettle Valley Railway system trails and the wonderfully untouched park of Okanagan Mountain. We are not in danger of that fire here on the opposite side of the lake. Aubin, who lives about 30 km north of the actual city of Kelowna is also not in danger of that fire either. Of all of us, I suppose I am having the most difficulty due to my lung problems and the smoke. There is not a lot I can do except keep taking the extra meds, not get too stressed and be at the school, rest when my body says to and be alert. Jerry and Xdr have both been inside this week. Jerry's office is air conditioned. Xdr has been taking part in a science camp that has done all of their camp inside the university. Their outdoor solar energy and eco labs were moved into the university to take into account the air quality.
The fire did take over many houses last night. There are a huge number of people who were on evacuation alert that were actually evacuated last night. The fire is licking at those houses right now. The evacuation alert area is extended to within a km of my school (the Mission Creek). Due to the topography and urban sprawl between the creek and the rest of the city, I don't think (this is logic speaking...not knowledge and experience) even this beast could get beyond the Creek area.
The fear for the rest of us (Yamashitas and Dorions) is only in the weather forcast. Tonight and tomorrow there are to be electric storms (with a chance of precip being only about 30%...that translates into 0% here due to experience). Having lived here now, we understand the randomness and high chance of another fire starting. This whole area is at the highest level of fire alert (level high at setting 6). Simply a smoldering cigerette ash or a poorly maintained dirt bike could start a huge fire within seconds. We are nestled in the woods. If we did have a fire start near us, it would not be good for us...but the fire isn't here and we may get through this next storm fine. Aubin's community would be about at the same risk as our own. The only additional redeeming feature where he lives is that there are many farms with extensive irrigation already in place to keep the ground cool and moist. There has been no rain for over 60 days. Not only the trees are dry, but there are many cm of dry material along the ground that allow embers to find good feeding ground. As I said though....we are really only threatened with fire ourselves should a new fire begin in our regions. We would not be at risk of loosing either of our places due to the fire at the south end of town.
We are worried for the family farm. The water source for the orchards is the Mission Creek that runs along the back length of the acreage. The fire is heading in that direction, but we will keep you as well informed as we can on that development.
So, for the first time, we have compiled a list of things we would grab if we received the "you have 30 minutes to leave" warning. Each of us has a list of items to get and we are all aware of what we will need to grab first, second and so on. The practice has really allowed us to reflect and realize that the "things" can be replaced....the most important things will be with us....each other. We haven't put the items together in a package by the door as we are not, at this time, in direct danger.
Please pray for all of those throughout B.C., Alberta and Washington State who are experiencing losses due to fires. Pray for our guidance and strength so that we can do everything possible to help in whatever way possible. And pray in thanksgiving, as we are, that we have been able to experience one of God's greatest gifts....nature...and we look forward to the changes and experiences that will come.
I know if I really tried to figure it out, I would be able to remember the year the song titled "Wild Fire" came out. However, I associate the song with my youth. Horses were a source of quiet strength and beauty for me. They were part of the cast of characters I was reading about as I waded deeper into my repertoire of historic fiction and horse stories. I was crossing the west of Canada by station wagon, windows open to the western air, AM radio changing between CBC and a local western radio station, edging my brothers farther away from me as my body was growing and now even more aware of their intrusion on my space, as the miles (yes, miles) raced ever so slowly across the prairies. This was a family camping trip. A summer excursion through Canada's history, geography and sociology and my first attempt at seeing what made up the western part of our country and culture.
The prairies extended for miles. In my daydreams, I could see me sitting on my favourite palomino racing across the prairies. Holding fast to the horse with my knees and calves I could imagine the feel of the great expansion of the horse's lungs pushing against the insides of my legs. My arms cast out to my sides drinking in the warmth of the sun so that even my sides could be warmed by its glow and cooled with the passing breezes. The sound only of the slight tred of hooves whisping across fresh grasses. Each step releasing strong aromas of sage and dew-licked clover into the crisp western air. The song "Wild Fire" released into my mind repeating chorus after chorus like an echo from a far off siren.
Now the sirens are harsh and real and wake us in fear in the night. Like the young wild palomino of my dreams, this "Wild Fire" is rushing and searing across the sage and clover. The wind is rushing past and the beast's lungs continue to take in more air gaining strength with each breath. The sound thunders through the hills. Its own heat, not that of the sun, warms the beast, encouraging it to thunder forward. This wild fire is real and it is happening here.
Saturday, the day of Jerry's youngest cousin's wedding, the rumours started to spread. Weeks before, the clouds in the sky of smoke had been in the valley signaling the first fires south of the valley, then north. The media kept us informed that the flames were licking other communities, other mountains, other houses. With sadness we listened as we heard of brave people attempting to calm the beasts. The battle went to the air as bombs of retardent and water were fed to the flames in the hopes of choking the beast. Much of the news told of the attempts that were not working although, we were told all would be looking better soon.
Jerry came home. Those clouds outside. Those clouds of smoke outside. Those clouds of smoke outside...are ours. Our wild fire.
The first reports revealed that two fires started that morning from lighning (lightning????..we haven't had a drop of precipitation for 59 days now....where was the lighning from???). Confirmation of the ignition and existence of two fires was lead by the next fact, the location and extent of the fire. Two to three hectares of fire were started by lightning at Okanagan Mountain Park, off Rattlesnake Island. Quickly we shifted through our books trying to find the acreage equivalent of a hectare to now really understand what that meant. One hectare is roughly equivalent to 2.5 acres. So a couple of hectares...that can't be wild.
That night, Aubin confirmed the worse. He had seen the blazes. People were crawling to greater heights wanting to see the flames. Maybe we needed to confirm that this really was happening. Maybe we needed to be a witness of this event. Afterall, in the east, the cities had been plunged into a pit of darkness. This would be our event for the next couple of days....right?
Monday's papers showed the beast. Today, Wednesday, I am having a great deal of trouble breathing. The wild fire itself is eating up a park that is at the south-eastern edge of Kelowna (locally known as "the mission" area). The beast can be seen at night from our side of the lake. Yesterday, the sun was red. It was absolutely horrific. I have never seen the sun as a fire ball in the sky. Choked by the smoke the house has needed to be closed up. It is warm and it will be hot within the next couple of hours. Evacuations and evacuation alerts have been sent out to over 2,000 homes as of this morning.
This morning I read the latest report. The beast is getting larger. It is now 6300 hectares huge. Don't worry about pulling out your calculators...that is approximately 15,750 acres. I remember growing up and thinking my grandparents owned nearly a "ranch" with their 200 something acres. That would be nearly 79 Wilker farms huge!!!
I can't imagine what the people are going through. How do you decide what to take with you to the evac centres? What do you keep behind knowing that maybe you may not use or see these memories again? How do you stay calm and focused? When do you really know when it is the last possible time to let that all be left behind? I am tired of just reading about what is happening. Today I will find out what I can do to help. I will have to leave my home though too today to find a shelter where I can breath so that I can slow down my heart and get my head thinking about what we can do to help these other. Yet, ironically?, unfortunately?, symobolicly the song keeps echoing in my head, "She'll be riding Wild Fire". Yes, now I know, I am not only in the West, I am part of this experience and life which is of the West.