Home > Aces & Asses, Kelowna, Stuff that's Happened to Me. > “Aces and Asses,” Volume 1. The Heroes and Zero’s of the recent Kelowna forest fires.

“Aces and Asses,” Volume 1. The Heroes and Zero’s of the recent Kelowna forest fires.

Welcome to my first instalment of “Aces and Asses,” where I take some time to point out some top notch people (aces), and some that I currently don’t think so highly of (asses).

For the second time in six years, my hometown (Kelowna) has been subject to home evacuation level forest fires.  This time is was West Kelowna that was subjected to threat.  After learning how to deal with such a disaster in 2003, our city really pulled together and got through the worst of 2009’s version, which featured not one, not two, but THREE simultaneous forest fires; all in danger of connecting with each other and causing a single fire that could’ve enveloped our whole city, if it hadn’t been attended to promptly (inaccessibility for firemen, water bombing cut-offs at dark, overnight winds, and unrelenting summer heat all could’ve made that happen, luckily it never got to that point).

Kelowna Fire 2003

an actual picture of the Okanagan Mountain Park fire in 2003 (photo by Steve Devries, used by permission. http://www.sayvee.com )

Who I’d like to recognize as Aces are quite an easy selection: the Firemen. Ever since our society redefined the “hero” after September 11, the fireman has gotten a lot of spotlight. I believe they deserve every watt of it. The civil servants that work on a volunteer basis, are on call at all times, answering 4 am calls to rescue cats in trees, constantly training for that one big fire that no one hopes ever comes. When it inevitably does, the grounds crews lug around heavy, sweaty gear and equipment, into dangerous environments conducive of death on multiple levels, literally putting their lives on the line so that Johnny Bravo, driving a $100,000 car, looking out for number one, living in his million dollar home on the mountain, won’t lose his abode. Granted, there are many other very kind people and their homes that are saved too that are much more deserving of such service. The air crews drop water and fire retardant from planes and helicopters thousands of feet up in the air with pinpoint accuracy. And NONE of them go home until the job is done. Good on ya firemen, and thank you, you’re Aces in my books.

Now, onto the Asses. First off are the idiots who still haven’t figured out that lighting a campfire in the middle of a forest that has been subject to heat levels that have dried the trees out to resemble a matchstick factory, is a POOR idea. “Sure,” they say to themselves over a campfire, “we might cause a blaze that could burn down the ENTIRE forest, spread to a residential area, burn down homes, destroy or damage property, maybe kill people, and incur millions of dollars in fees for the crews to put it out, also put said fire crews in mortal danger, and possibly get fined ourselves if we’re caught, buuuut I really do need these marshmallows toasted.” Nice going morons, accidental or not, you guys can never repay the debt to society that you’ve generated by your ignorant and idiotic actions.

Second are those who have decided that a home evacuation epidemic is the ideal time to loot the homes of the evacuees. This is the absolute lowest level of humanity that I’m aware of. The selfishness, greed, and desensitization of the people who decided to do this is absolutely staggering and appalling. It really takes a special kind of individual to take advantage of people in this manner. Not only are the victims already homeless, but now when they return home, they will find themselves possession-less as well. I hope that if these people are caught, they are charged the same, if not more, than the people who started the fires in the first place. Despicable.

In a time where a community has really come together, shown it’s true colors and helped each other to overcome such distress, it’s just plain unfortunate to find out there are such lowly people are among us. But on a side much more worthy of attention, there are still some incredible, selfless people, who really show what it means to “love thy neighbour,” and to have real pride in one’s community. From the fireman on the front line, to the lady who goes around her neighbourhood and knocks on doors to make sure everyone knows there’s an emergency and to help them prepare, to the guy who gets out of his car and helps direct traffic for the thousands of cars trying to flee, there are still plenty of good people left around here.

  1. Ryan
    September 9, 2009 at 6:33 am

    Learn Geography or move back where you came from. These fires werent even in Kelowna but you want to feel important “all in danger of connecting with each other and causing a single fire that could’ve enveloped our whole city” is absolute bullshit, that was never a danger, and the third fire was flaring up as the other 2 were practically out.

    I cant stand sensationalism, if you want to be a pretend reporter thats fine but stop helping morons spread bullshit rumors.

  2. davecunning
    September 9, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Hi Ryan,

    I wanted to address your comments to my blog. As a blogger, I’m free to write whatever I want–one of the consequences of that is that people can in turn respond to me however they like as well. That’s fair.

    First, I want to note that when I wrote the blog, I wrote it to a broad and general audience, who probably doesn’t know the difference between Kelowna, West Kelowna, Westside or Westbank. The fact is that most of the people who live here don’t either. I did make an edit in the blog to reflect your geographic comment.

    Second, I am not attempting to be a “pretend reporter”, nor do I have a desire to feel important by attempting to sensationalize the fire. The fact is Ryan, that there were 3 simultaneous fires burning–far apart, yes, but certainly at the same time. The Glenrosa fire was, at one point, out of control. People lost houses, buildings burned, the highway was shut down. I live in Rose Valley, and stayed up through the night listening to the radio for evac order, and watching the fire creep over the hill with my own eyes, closer and closer to the residential area. In fact, so was everyone in our neighborhood. We were all on evac alert for days, and one subdivision was evacuated all together. From where I live, I could see the Glenrosa fire, as clear as the Rose Valley fire. Burning through dry forests, unaided by water bombers at night, no accessible roads for fire crews to attack it during the day, increasing wind velocities, and continually hot temperatures all COULD have been condusive of seeing both fires come together. They did not, thankfully, but the possibility existed. Terrace Moutain was subject to the same variables. Even when the reports came that the fires were 90% contained (as you mentioned, “practically out”), the wind picked up the next night, and then they were down to around 30% containment again. No one’s pretending that there was a connected fire, the only point I raised was that the possibility existed.

    So like I said, you’re entitled to your opinion, but so am I. My opinion is that you should get your own facts straight before you call bullshit. It’s unfortunate that those were the only points you chose to raise out of the blog.


  3. Ryan
    September 11, 2009 at 8:27 am


    First of all, I have to say I am surprised by your concise reply, not exactly what I am used to on the internet. Thank you for taking the time to address my comment. However, Im afraid I will have to disagree with you on a number of points:

    1: Most people who live here do know the difference between Kelowna, West Kelowna, and Westbank. A great many of us have lived here for our whole lives and do not appreciate it when history is just shoved aside to make things easier. Just because otheer people have been confused by the media calling one city another doesnt mean a local person should continue to get it wrong. Maybe include a bit of a description: “West Kelowna, a small city directly across the lake to the west of kelowna.”

    2: I worked for forestry on two of the three fires (glenrosa and terrace mtn) and I live in glenrosa right below gormans mill. I was evacuated, and we were some of the last people allowed back in. The fire was under control the first day and had no chance of ever connecting up with the other two due to being kilometers apart. It did consume houses, but at its peak was only 300 hectares. The glenrosa fire was also easily accessed with roads on all sides. Sure it could have been worse, but why glorify it, why not just tell it like it is?

    3: The chances of the terrace fire and the rose valley fire coming together was also close to zero, however you portray it as if we were just barely saved. It would have taken weather conditions which almost never exist here. Sure you can say it was possible (unlike the glenrosa fire) but it was nowhere even close to likely.

    I do agree that it was unfair of me to focus on the bad points and I do appreciate your mention of the level of community spirit here, I just cant stand the over-glorification and sensationalism that everyone seems to feel the need to inject into everything all the time.


  4. davecunning
    September 11, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    1) Things may be more clear for you in Glenrosa, as far as the name and jurisdiction go. In Rose Valley, we’ve always had “Kelowna” mailing addresses, and so far that hasn’t changed. I know that I’m not the only one around here who has the same confusion. Pardon our ignorance.

    2) If you had anything to do with the putting out of the fires (not sure what you mean by “worked for forestry”), then thank you very much. The people that helped extinguish the blazes were the ones I was trying to draw attention to in this blog–in a positive and appreciative manner.
    You obviously had more insight than CHBC or any of the local radio stations did, who were all broadcasting from the other side of the lake. These were the reports that we listened to for nights on end until we knew everything was surely safe. Between reports, broadcasts, interviews, and public call-in’s, we thought we were being told “how it was.” Obviously you are contending what the local, provincial, and national news was reporting (CBC had some coverage), which is fine. I was not aware of your side of the story, so thank you for filling me, and any one else reading, in on info that we weren’t aware of.

    3) Once again, I will interate that was not not attempting to “glorify” anything, I was simply writing out of what I was feeling and thinking from what I was hearing on the news, and seeing first hand from the fire near us. I find it puzzling that you seem to feel so strongly that I was attempting to glorify that one hypothetical point. However, you are entitled to your opinion. It’s too bad that you’ve continued to take one sentence from the blog and drag out your contentions with it; when the goal of the remaining 9/10th’s of the blog was to highlight the firemen, emergency crews, and volunteers’ efforts in battling the fire, and to point out the idiots who were looting houses while they were abandoned, as well as the careless people lighting campfires in the forest who likely started the fires. I feel that you’ve really missed the points I was trying to make, but if you feel the need to ride out your “over-glorification” and “sensationalism” tangents, then I suppose that’s your prerogative.

  5. September 6, 2010 at 8:00 am

    If you are going to use someones photo, you should at least give the credit to them?
    The photo is owned by myself, Steve Devries, and you should put on there, used by permission Steve Devries, with a link to my website http://www.sayvee.com.


    Steve Devries

    • September 6, 2010 at 11:28 am

      Not a problem, and thanks for your permission. When I got it off the internet, it was not tagged with any credits, so I couldn’t have known it was yours. Sorry. Hope it’s satisfactory now. Great pic btw!

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