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‘Just devastating’: West Kelowna evacuees reeling as destructive wildfire rages


Holger Clausen is operating on about one hour’s sleep.

He’s among the 2,500 people ordered out of their West Kelowna, B.C., homes on Thursday night due to the destructive McDougall Creek wildfire.

He spent the night with his trailer at Okanagan Landing, watching the fire as it swept down into the community, destroying an as-yet unknown number of homes. He believes his own home in Trader’s Cove was spared.

Click to play video: 'Refusal to heed evacuation orders putting emergency crews at risk'

Refusal to heed evacuation orders putting emergency crews at risk

“Everyone was just gawking,” he said.

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“We were all just amazed at the wind, and the vortexes that would bring the flames up 200 or 300 feet at least, and how far the embers just spread ahead of the fire.”

About 2,500 people have been forced from their homes in West Kelowna, Kelowna and surrounding communities due to the fire, with about 4,600 more being told to be ready to leave on a moment’s notice.

Earlier Friday, officials confirmed “significant” structure loss in West Kelowna, while the Lake Okanagan Resort appears to have been destroyed.

Marianne Dahl was evacuated from the Trader’s Cove neighbourhood, where she said numerous homes have reportedly been destroyed.

She spent the night in Glenrosa, watching as “the whole community was razed and ravaged by this incredibly horrific fire.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. wildfires: Evacuation alerts and updates changing as McDougall Creek wildfire grows'

B.C. wildfires: Evacuation alerts and updates changing as McDougall Creek wildfire grows

Dahl’s husband, a firefighter with the Wilson’s Landing Volunteer Fire Department, was called out to help with evacuations and fire suppression Thursday afternoon, and the two haven’t seen each other since.

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She said he visited Trader’s Cove around 1 a.m., and described some houses still standing with many more gone.

“Which is just devastating. There’s 100 homes in Trader’s Cove and I just can’t imagine. I feel for everybody, all of my friends who have been impacted,” she said, holding back tears.

“I understand my house is still standing, and I don’t know why. How can a little pocket of homes be OK and the rest of the community incinerated?  I don’t know and we still don’t know what we’re going to see when we get there.”

Lynn Hale told Global News the fire had reached a few hundred metres from her home on Westside Road.

“The fire is close to our home, and we just probably spent $100,000 on renos to get it updated and do all the things we needed to do,” she said.

“The kids had their snowmobiles, and my son-in-law had his motorbike, so they loaded everything up to his parents and now his parents’ place is under alert.”

Click to play video: '‘It was worse than we had expected’: West Kelowna fire chief on challenging fight'

‘It was worse than we had expected’: West Kelowna fire chief on challenging fight

Hale has lived in the area for more than five decades, and was there in 2003 when the devastating Okanagan Mountain Park Fire grew to within seven kilometres of her home.

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The McDougall Fire is of another magnitude entirely, she said.

“It’s worrisome. It’s been the worst fire we’ve ever had.”

Despite the anxiety, the evacuees Global News spoke with expressed both hope for a positive outcome — and faith that their community will band together to overcome the disaster.

Hale said she’d been bombarded with calls from concerned friends offering help and food.

“People are coming together here and helping each other which is nice,” she said.

Dahl said she planned to spend Friday checking in on others’ well-being.

“Today is checking on my neighbours, my family and friends in Kelowna who are all just devastated by what’s happened. Everyone’s in shock, just trying to regroup and hope for the best,” she said.

“Everybody rallies. I know people will just go above and beyond.”

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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