Let me start by saying the UFOs in this story are Unidentified Falling Objects; and now (as Paul Harvey would say) the rest of the story.
The cause of the fire burning in the hills above Peachland is as yet unknown, but some say it could have been the result of a meteor shower in the Okanagan.
Several residents report seeing fiery streaks in the sky around the same time as the Trepanier Creek Wildfire that started near Trepanier Linear Park Sunday afternoon.
"I was driving north up Highway 97 when I saw a really, really bright light coming straight down, off to the right over the lake," said Philip Hare of Kelowna. "It was so close I felt like I could touch it, then it was gone. Then I heard about the fire and thought that was way too coincidental for me."
Hare reported the sighting at 3 p.m., the fire started around the same time.
"It was a flash of bright white, blue hot with flames."
Others, sitting in their swimming pools or driving, report seeing balls of fire with flaming tails in the area near where the blaze began and other points to the northeast. Coincidentally or not there was another fire that started near Falkland around the same time as the one in Peachland. The origin of that fire, is also, still under investigation.
Here are two more reports from our readers:
On Sept. 10 Petrina Hodgins sent this in, "Just wanted to tell someone that yesterday afternoon, September 9, 2012, I was in our public pool in the complex on Lanfranco Road. I was in the pool between 1:30 and 3:45. About halfway during that time, I saw, up in the sky, (I was facing eastward) a meteor or something with fire on its tail. It looked to be coming almost straight down. This is making me wonder about the Falkland fire..., and perhaps another one went down near Peachland."
At 3:23 on Sept. 9, Martin Jankowiak emailed us this note, "Have you heard any other reports of a possible meteor sighting near the airport about 10 minutes ago? We just saw what looks like a meteor and possibly impacting the ground into a group of trees."
Now the story is getting interesting.
Tom Landecker, a scientist with the Dominion Radio Observatory near Penticton, said they don't have equipment to detect that sort of thing.
But from descriptions he received it could have been meteors.
"A meteor is natural but space junk is space junk," he said. "If you are familiar with shooting stars, you are seeing a little bit of debris from the solar system, the size of a grain of sand.
The flash of light you see is 150 km above the earth, and it is possible for fragments of these things to reach the earth, but it's like a piece of rock, by the time it reaches the surface of earth it is stone cold and it's not going to start any fires."
Landecker added that it is an uncommon occurrence, and the fact that it appears to be coming straight down is a matter of perspective.'
"Usually with the speed of these things, it's from a collision. It's largely the earth's speed that creates this relative speed."
Not everybody is ready to give-up on the idea that a UFO (Unidentified Falling Object) started the fire theory.
Natalie, a Kelowna resident who declined to give her last name, remains convinced the flaming object falling from the sky was related to the fire. She witnessed it as she drove home on Hwy. 97.
"It was a shocking and unnerving sight because it was traveling really fast and was white with red flames," she said. "I even said to my son if it hits something it is going to cause a fire. I really think it was related because it was around the same time as the fire."
What we know: People saw something . . . and that is all we know. Was it a meteor? Was it parts that fell off of a plane? What was it? Where did it come from? Where did it go? And what caused the fires?
An hour after we published the story Jesse Wunderlich sent a letter to [email protected]
'I just read your news story about the UFO and fires. I can't believe it, but my wife and I were driving home from vacation and we were going through Kamloops on the way to Vernon around 3:00 on Sunday. My wife said, "what was that. I think a fireball just fell from the sky." I made fun of her all the way home. Maybe there is something to this story. Crazy."
Here are more emails:
Kelly - "I was driving home from work just before 3 p.m. on Sunday, and just after I passed Springfield park, I saw something to the left of me fall from the sky. It was shiny and at first I thought it was some kind of shiny kite nose diving, but it started way too high and traveled way to far to be a kite, plus it had no string attached. I wondered if it fell from something but there was nothing around that it could have fallen from.
It curved towards the ground and disappeared behind houses. I assumed it would have landed near Graham Rd. or in that general area. I told my husband about it and to my surprise, he also saw something similar around the same time. The thing I saw didn't have fire or a tail but the one my husband saw did. His UFO disappeared behind Black Mtn. I wonder if the thing I saw could have hit someone, or perhaps landed in someone's yard. I hope I find out."
Bryan Christensen - "In regards to the recent story about the UFOs and recent fires in the Okanagan, I would like to share a similar story with respect to seeing a 'UFO'. I do not remember the time exactly, but it was in the mid-afternoon and I was driving my car in Kamloops through the city, driving almost due east and I happened to notice, in the sky, a big ball of fire that originated over my car or behind me. I watched the fireball head east as well, almost in the same direction as myself and it lasted for almost foour seconds. It was as visible and clear as a plane in the sky taking off from the airport, which I thought it initially was, but (with) the speed and distance the fireball traveled I immediately cancelled that out. I tried to point it out to my girlfriend who was riding beside me, but by the time she turned her head to see it, all there was, was a faint smoke trail. My girlfriend, thought I was crazy.
After reading your story, and reading the story about the witness in Kamloops, I am certain it was either a meteor or space junk falling to earth. And after some investigation using online maps, I predicted the UFO to be in the trajectory of Falkland or Armstrong area."
Jay Michie - "I was sitting on our beach lot on Westside first nations land. Not sure of the time, but it was Sunday early afternoon. I was sitting with a few friends. Although I was the only one who saw it out of our group, I witnessed something fall from the sky. It was exactly as others have described. A bright white ball with flames and a bright tail. To me the outline of it was vague but still very noticeable, and out of the ordinary. I asked everyone else if they saw it and they replied no. The object fell over Kelowna. Between the bluffs sign on the Westside and Black Mountain."
B.F. - "Hi there! I just finished reading your article on the unidentified falling objects and am relieved to hear I wasn't the only person who witnessed this. On Sunday between 3 and 4 p.m. I was driving on highway 97 heading south-east and witness what appeared to be a huge burning ball with a long white tail streaking across the sky. I lost sight of it as it went behind Black Mountain. I'm not sure what is more unnerving, the possibility of it being an undetected meteor falling from the skies or that pieces of airplanes, we fly everyday, are falling off the planes!!"
Steve - "On Sunday at 2:30 a.m I was up using the washroom. The window was open and as I looked out over Penticton ( we live in the upper Carmi area so we are about two thousand feet higher than town elevation ) I saw what I thought was a falling star heading west towards Apex mountain. It had the usual lighted tail behind it but what was unusual was that it seemed to explode, basically like a fireworks. From first seeing it until it was extinguished was about three seconds."
Sharon Hurter - "Thought we would send in our story. We did report our sighting with the forestry dept. My Husband and I were driving back from a camping trip, from Aspen Grove to West Kelowna. At the top of the Pennask Summit (right at the sign posted on the Hwy.) At exactly 2:48 p.m. the meteor (we’re calling it a meteor) flew past us, It was travelling in
the same relative direction as we were. The fire ball and trail of fire behind it was appoximatley 60 feet (or more) in length. Travelling in an angled downward direction toward the Valley. When we saw it, it was in one solid piece.
There is Zero doubt in our minds that this is what started the Peachland fire. We travelled further along the highway and saw the beginnings of the fire. Police were just arriving to the burn site. It was a sight to see. I’m sure we will never get another like it."
Vic Sery - "I was driving down 97 at around 3 p.m heading north and was just about to pass Richter St. when I saw a white shiny streak with an orange ora around it. I at first thought it was a flare of some sort, but never did see anything or hear any sirens. It kind of baffled me, as it looked to be in the northern direction towards Dilworth Mtn., but I never did see any fires or anything in the area so I just ignored the idea of it being anything other than just being some kids playing with a flare gun. I am glad there were as many people who witnessed this as it seemed kind of strange for me to be the only one to see such a thing."
Nancy Varner - "On Sunday at around 2:30-3 p.m. we were driving on our way to Kal Lake, just before the provincial park on Hwy. 97. I saw a bright object with a red flame behind it, off to the left towards Coldstream. It was gone in an instant and my family made fun of me thinking I was seeing things. I'm glad to say other people saw what I saw it was quite fantastic, but to quick to get a picture."
Michelle D. -"I find it rather funny that other people in this town actually saw this object other than myself and my common-law. We were on our way home (towards Kelowna) from Cherryville and saw this bright white ball with a tail heading downwards. At first we thought perhaps it was the stream from a jet plane but it would have had to be going straight down and it wasn't clouded as the streams usually are. I was going to take a picture and I didn't, but I sure wish I had now!"
Liana B. - "On Sept. 9, I was travelling northbound on Hwy 97 just after 3 p.m. when I saw a streak of light coming down close to the airport as well. I was going to dismiss it as it had already disappeared, when my 6-year-old asked if anyone else had seen it and stated that he just saw something "really weird". It was lower than the mountain range on the eastside of the valley, and didn't last very long. It looked about the size of a flare, but shooting very fast towards the ground with a flaming tail like a comet behind it. The flame seemed to go out before hitting the ground and I remember thinking that it was lucky that it had."
Rebekka Lindskoog, B. Sc. - "I absolutely saw the meteor (or whatever) as well! I was out at our cabin on Westside Road on Sunday and saw a ball of light fly over the mountain on the other side of the lake. My husband joked at me for the rest of the day while I convinced myself I was seeing things. He noted that 'if there is a fire on the other side of the mountain, I’ll believe you'. I am shocked to read this today."
Karen Malin, PCP - "On Sunday afternoon I was also floating in my pool and saw what looked like a small ball of fire burn up before hitting the ground only a short distance away. My husband had gone inside and did not witness this event and thought I was nuts when I told him. Only moments later it seems, helicopters were heading for Peachland and news of the wildfire had been announced on the radio. I live just below Gorman’s Mill, and as a victim of the Glenrosa Wildfire in 2009, I wasn’t waiting around and packed a bag, threw the dogs in the car and went to my kid’s place in Kelowna. Thank you for validating what I saw, and my suspicions as to what started the Trepanier wildfire."
Melanie Lind - "On Sunday around 2:45 p.m we were traveling north on Highway 97 by the Kelowna airport, my 9-year-old daughter, Jade shouts out 'I just saw a shooting star'! She went on to describe it as a huge firework in the sky, dropping straight down to the earth, we even doubled back around the airport as she was convinced it landed somewhere by Mill Creek running parallel to the airport. Cool that others saw this, it would be great to have an expert confirm how many there were or if we all saw the same one at different angles."
Dawn Waldaus, B.A., M.S.W. - "My girlfriend and I were driving home to Vernon, from Osoyoos around 3 p.m. It was minutes before we noticed the fire. We were on Highway 97 in Penticton, driving parallel with the lake. I noticed a silver and white bright, large object streak down in the sky, towards the East, dropping down into the mountains. I thought immediately I was seeing things until my girlfriend asked me if I had just seen that silver object in the sky. Of course we both couldn’t quite believe it. I have been telling people about it all week, and even googled it to see if there was something going on. But this is the first I heard that anyone else saw it as well!"