Firestorm: 14 years later

It's an ominous anniversary, one that marks one of the worst – and best – moments in Kelowna's history.

It was 14 years ago today that a lightning strike in the early morning hours of Aug. 16, just outside the southern boundaries of the city, across the lake from Peachland, sparked what would become, at the time, the largest post-war mass evacuation Canada had seen.

It also led to the destruction of 239 homes in the Upper Mission, most of those in the Kettle Valley and Crawford Estates areas. Twelve wooden and two metal trestles in historic Myra Canyon were also damaged or destroyed.

More than 33,000 people were evacuated; 4,000 of those were sent packing a second time as fires raged around them.

At one point, it seemed people within the city were either out of their home, or hosting someone who was.

The army was sent in to help battle the fires, setting up a makeshift camp on the Apple Bowl and Parkinson Rec Centre fields.

At the height of the blaze, which burned through 26,500 hectares, firefighters on the front lines estimated the wall of flame to be up to 400 feet high.

It was classified as a Rank 6 firestorm.

On Sept. 12, all remaining evacuation alerts were lifted, and eight days later, the Ministry of Forests announced the fire was 100 per cent contained.

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