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Tree lights up like a torch

A homeowner is lucky the damage to her yard wasn’t more severe after some bushes and a large tree caught on fire in front of her home.

Gladys Klonteig says an employee with Strong Arm Seal Coating knocked on her door Tuesday morning, offering to fix her driveway. The same company had been going around her neighbourhood on Stearns Road, so she agreed.

She has had her driveway seal coated before, and says the worker was concentrating on large bumps caused by tree roots.

“I came out here and it was smoking,” says Klonteig, who didn’t think anything was wrong at first.

“I went to the kitchen, came back and the fire was halfway up the shrubs. It was just too scary, and I thought “what should I do first?” and called 911.”

She says the flames first torched her juniper bushes, and then began to climb the tall blue spruce that stands just a few metres from her home.

Her neighbours then sprang into action and attacked the flames with garden hoses until fire crews arrived.

Kelowna Fire Captain AJ Chatham says the tree looked like a giant torch as they headed towards the scene, and acknowledged the neighbours who helped dampen the flames until crews arrived.

“Coming up McKenzie Road, it was just one big torch,” says Chatham.

“And our main concern of course was it extending to the house. And like I said, it was probably the residents with the garden hoses that made the difference for us.”

He says the initial report was of someone using a tiger (propane) torch to burn away some driveway debris.

“I think he got a little too close to the dried pine needles here that were adjacent to the tree and he had thoughts of getting a garden hose, turned his back and it was already going up the tree,” he says.

“With the dry needles and the dryer air, it doesn’t take long and up it went.”

One of the neighbours received some minor smoke inhalation and the worker using the tiger torch had minor burns on his shoulders.

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