Fire brought back '03 memories

Tuesday's fire off of North Naramata Road triggered memories of another much more devastating fire 11 years ago.

Some residents who live in the area say it took place the same day they were asked to leave their homes during the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire.

"It was exactly the same day, Aug. 19, 2003, that was the evacuation day," said Cyndie Salting, who lives just south of the recent blaze. "We were about to pick pears and they had a camp set up at the top of Languedoc Road, and the RCMP weren't letting anyone past that point."

The Okanagan Mountain Park Fire consumed over 25,000 hectares of forest and parkland south and east of Kelowna, forcing the evacuation of more than 27,000 people and it destroyed 239 homes.

Salting recalls getting photo albums and other belongings packed up and ready to go, and worrying about which direction the wind was going to take.

"It could have come this way just as easily as Kelowna," she said.

Tuesday's blaze burned much closer, and Salting spent the afternoon hosing down the side of the house, filling wheelbarrows full of water to deal with any spot fires and making sure her animals were safe.

She also went down the road putting people on alert on Languedoc.

"Several homes were threatened, with at least two in imminent danger," she said."There was a real sense of fear early on, with all the firefighters, RCMP and BC Ambulance on scene."

Mark Berry said he has lived in the area for 33 years and recalls being told to leave during the 2003 fire.

"We were told to evacuate around this same time," he said. "Yesterday brought back memories of having to get stuff, anything we valued. I remember it was a worry with bears in the area being forced down by the fire."

Berry said he was home during the more recent fire. He first noticed how close it was and that the wind was blowing in the direction of his home.

"If the trees had candled on this side, the house could have been next," he said. "We were just using as much water as possible to soak the bank in front of the house. We were praying for bombers and they showed up and saved the day."

He also started packing up belongings, just like on that day 11 years ago, in case they had to leave.

"We were just worried about losing everything we'd built over the last 30 years or so," he said. "You just realize it can be taken away so quickly."

Both he and Salting said they were grateful for the quick work of all the firefighters who responded, as well as a crew from Paradise Ranch who had a tanker at the scene.

The human caused fire, which started by the side of North Naramata Road, is under investigation.



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