Originally written for eVent! [ep] magazine on 06/29/06.
Once again we have entered the forest fire season. It’s hard to pick exactly when the season begins, unlike hockey or baseball it doesn’t have an opening day, but with the brush fire in Winfield the other day it’s safe to say that we’re into it now. Which means no more using a blowtorch to chase off bears.
I was going to write an article about my own personal experiences during the Great Okanagan Fire. I decided against it since everyone in town has their own stories and mine are not exactly the stuff of legends. However I think what is particularly impressive is that I do not own one of the t-shirts that were sold during the fire. Now I know the money raised by selling the shirts went to charity, but at the time I just did not have the money because it was far before I got this eVent! gig to give me the fat cash. (I just recently bought a solid gold Escalade with my mad eVent! money. Not bad for a free publication.)
In truth at the time I thought the shirts were a bit cheesy. I mean it’s obvious we all appreciate firemen, until it comes time to negotiate with their union for new contracts, so do we need to wear a t-shirt declaring our allegiance to them? That was my thinking then, and to a degree I still stand by that. Those shirts though ended up being a wonderful reminder of both the bravery of those that risked their lives to save homes, but also of the event itself. The shirts, even years later, are everywhere. I’ve seen them as far east as Toronto, as far south as Cuba. The other day when I was in Vancouver I spotted one of the Skytrain.
There are of course other ways we remember the fire. I think we all have a copy of Ross Freake and Don Plant’s book Firestorm with material from five area newspapers including the Kelowna Daily Courier, the Penticton Herald and the Kamloops Daily News. Again it’s something that I didn’t buy, but my parents bought a copy and enough people that I know have a copy that I’ll always be able to leaf through it at boring parties. Which is to say you should buy a copy and then invite me to a party so that I get a chance to read through it again. Also buy America The Book by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, I enjoy flipping through that one as well.
With the return of forest fire season we have to be careful. As nice as it is to look back on the firestorm as a great adventure, a time when our city came together and Mike Roberts went on television in a golf shirt and peered off into the smoke from the while on camera and said, “I think it’s safe to assume that everyone in the mission area has been consumed by fire. I’ve been told burning to death is a horrible way to die, I’m sad to say within the hour I may know exactly how that feels. When it comes to being your turn to die in the inferno remember, Mike said it would be like this.”
Okay he didn’t actually say that, but how great would it be for us as a city if we actually had that on tape? In fact, Mr. Roberts it is your civic duty to re-enact that scene I just wrote out and give it to us as a gift, maybe for our collective birthdays. It’ll be something we can watch at boring parties.