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Remembering the 1996 fire that came close to Summerland homes

Giants Head Mountain Park fire left charred remnants in its wake
On Aug. 11, 1996, a fire burned in Giant’s Head Mountain Park in Summerland. The park came within metres of some nearby houses. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)

A wildfire in the 1990s burned near the centre of Summerland, threatening numerous homes and properties in the community.

The Giant’s Head Mountain Park wildfire started on Aug. 11, 1996, around 4 p.m. in the mountain park. The fire reached a size of more than 60 hectares. The fire was around 275 metres up the side of the mountain.

Water bombers were used to attack the fire until well into the evening on that day.

While it did not destroy any homes in the area, it came within metres of houses and property lines nearby. Around 20 houses were evacuated that afternoon.

The fire was within a large municipal park, but there are homes on all sides of this mountain.

Residents were left shaken after the fire and firefighting efforts.

Dr. Lea Leslie, who had lived in Europe during the Second World War, said the flames and the sounds of the water bombers brought back memories of air raids and bombings in Europe during the war.

Muir Meredith, a Giants Head Road resident, said the burned area was just 35 steps from his property line.

Firefighters from Summerland were joined by crews from Penticton, Peachland, Naramata, Merritt and Castlegar as well as provincial forest fire crews.

However, strong winds which kept shifting made firefighting efforts difficult.

After the fire was extinguished, crews remained on the scene battling hot spots in the area.

Charred remnants of this fire could be seen on the mountain in the years following the blaze.

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John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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