Okanagan has had history of wildfires

Okanagan Valley residents are no strangers to wildfires, including some devastating blazes which have come close to communities in the area.

Okanagan Valley residents are no strangers to wildfires, including some devastating blazes which have come close to communities in the area.

The biggest in recent memory was in 2003, when a wildfire in Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park, on the east side of Okanagan Lake, resulted in the destruction of more than 26,000 hectares and the evacuation of 27,000 residents.

The fire began on Aug. 16, 2003.

Firefighters from 60 fire departments, 1,400 armed forces troops and 1,000 forest fire fighters were at the scene.

Jim Mottishaw, forest prevention officer with the Penticton Fire Zone, said the largest fires in the Okanagan tend to happen on the east side of Okanagan Lake, where drying conditions are greater.

“All the large fires are on that side of the lake,” he said.

On the west side of Okanagan Lake, the Glenrosa fire of 2009 and the Peachland fire of 2012 were much smaller, between 1,000 and 2,000 hectares each.

The Garnet Fire in Penticton, which began July 29, 1994, resulted in 5,500 hectares of damage.

In Summerland, the Giant’s Head Mountain fire, on Aug. 15, 1996 destroyed around 55 hectares on the east side of the mountain. It came as close as 15 metres from some of the homes in the area.

Mottishaw said Summerland has a community wildfire protection plan in place.

In addition, the orchards also provide a degree of protection.