2017’s Top Stories: Okanagan Centre fire

A fire destroyed eight homes in in Lake Country and putting a heavy strain on the community

A look back at stories that made an impact on Lake Country in 2017.

More than $13 million was lost in Lake Country’s devastating Okanagan Centre fire.

Eight houses were destroyed in the blaze that was deemed to be man-caused when it broke out in mid July.

For Blair and Joanne Croom, returning home to their house on Nighthawk Road in Lake Country was a mixed blessing.

They knew their home was still standing, but learned first-hand the degree of damage the fire caused, while seeing neighbours along their street having lost everything.

“Your emotions are raw. You’re not sure what to say to others who lost their homes. It’s hard to look at the damage left behind, it’s so devastating,” said Joanne.

The Lake Country couple spoke with the media outside their home in July, recounting how their lives were turned upside down quickly as the Okanagan Centre wildfire took off up the steep hill from the roadside on Okanagan Centre Road West headed straight for their street.

“It was incredible how fast the fire raced up that hill,” said Blair.

Cars and personal property could be seen embedded in soot, once residents were able to return.

The fire was deemed suspicious and RCMP set up a dedicated tip line as the origin of the blaze was found to be on Okanagan Centre Road West.

“This was a very traumatic incident, and we do want to solve this matter. We have specialized resources and police dedicated to this fire, so we would like the public to be extra vigilant and report anything suspicious to police in this area,” RCMP said at the time.

The Lake Country fire, as well as other fires sparked around the region, brought a visit from Prime Minister Trudeau and Lake Country crews were able to meet him during his stay in Kelowna for the summer caucus meeting in early September.

A meal was also donated to Lake Country firefighters, as a thank you for their efforts.

Husband and wife team Chantana and Don Pitiwan — owners and operators of Chantana’s Thai Food in Lake Country — cooked up a traditional Thai dinner for Lake Country’s contingent of firefighters.

Community businesses contributed to the meal. A local winery also helped the community by holding an auction to raise money for the B.C. Fire Fund. Ex Nihilo Vineyards sold a piece by Alex Fong, valued at $5,500.

When the fire struck, Ex Nihilo was hosting a concert with Barney Bentall, wine, food and friends when non-stop water bombers, retardant planes, smoke, and black plumes took over, indicating the tragic loss of neighboring homes and surroundings.

The vineyard said it felt compelled to help B.C. fire victims and to prepare for future events.

According to fire chief Steve Windsor, the insured losses could’ve been much worse.

“But within that fire zone… we calculate that there was $37.6 million worth of properties that were saved,” he said.

The Lake Country fire department has three halls, two chief officers, two maintenance members, a fire inspector and 52 members on call.

They were busy again this year during the fire season as grass fires and other blazes became a routine part of their day.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

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Barry Gerding/Capital News Destruction was wide spread after the Okanagan Centre fire in Lake Country.

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