Documentary marks anniversary of pivotal Valley event

A new documentary about the Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire of 2003 will premiere on Aug. 16 in Kelowna.

The Okanagan Mountain Park fire marked a turning point for Valley residents. It was the first such catastrophic natural event to affect so many people here.

The Okanagan Mountain Park fire marked a turning point for Valley residents. It was the first such catastrophic natural event to affect so many people here.

To commemorate a significant event in the Okanagan history, a new documentary film about the Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire of 2003 will premiere on Aug. 16, 7 p.m., at the Paramount Theatre in Kelowna.

The premiere for the film Firestorm: Out of the Ashes coincides with the 10th anniversary of the lightning strike on Squally Point by Rattlesnake Island that spread across the eastern shoreline of Okanagan Lake.

The fire spread across the Upper Mission destroying many homes before carrying on into Myra Canyon where it destroyed a number of historic Kettle Valley Railway trestles.

It forced the evacuation of 27,000 residents and burned close to 62,000 acres of forest, grassland and residential property. More than 60 fire departments from across B.C. and Alberta, along with 1,400 Armed Forces personnel and 1,000 forest fire firefighters were call in to help battle the blaze.

The damage has since been repaired and homes rebuilt, but the memories of that fire carry on as a decade is marked and forest fires have become an annual summer concern in the Central Okanagan.

Already this summer, there have been four forest fires—one in West Kelowna, another north of the Kelowna airport, and the most recent two in Peachland and Glenmore—that have required firefighter and air support response to keep them from spreading out of control.

Melissa Johnson, creator of the documentary, says the 2003 fire was one event that translated into so many difference experiences for people.

“The stories are so diverse, from St. Hubertus to city hall. Connecting with the people and their stories has been an experience in itself that I will never forget,” Johnson said.

Having a Kelowna-based documentary company produce the film has also made the creating of Firestorm even more of a community undertaking.

Director Jiri Bakala, of Ascent Films Inc., has drawn from a pool of Okanagan talent to help contribute to the filmmaking. Some of the photographs used in it were taken by award winning photographer Gary Nylander, and are featured alongside music by composer Kenton Gilchrist. The film was edited by Steven Antturi.

Tickets for the documentary’s premiere are available for $10 online at www.ascentfilms.com/firestorm, as well as at the Lake Country Art Gallery, as well in Kelowna at the Paramount Theatre on Bernard Avenue and Bella Clothing on Pandosy Street.

To find out more about the film and filmmakers, visit www.ascentfilms.com/firestorm.