August 15, 2015 11:03 am
Updated: August 5, 2016 11:37 pm

Southern Okanagan wineries grateful to have escaped Oliver’s fires

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WATCH: The fires in Oliver threatened – but didn’t damage – several wineries to the south of the town. Catherine Urquhart reports.

The ‘Golden Mile’ between Oliver and Osoyoos is home to dozens of wineries, and it was the epicenter of some of the tensest moments on Friday night.

“It came right down here,” said Bruce Fuller of Rustico Farm and Cellars, pointing to the thin roadway that separated his vines from the hillside.

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READ MORE: Hundreds evacuated as fires to the north and south of Oliver grow overnight

As the Testalinden Creek wildfire grew to 1500 hectares in size, many operations prepared for the worst – including Fuller’s.

“We had moved our computers, everything we had of value down to the bottom of the property. We were just sitting there watching,” he said.

They survived the night. So did every other winery, including those, like Church & State Wines, that feared the worst.

The popular winery tweeted several pictures showing smoke and flames growing closer to the winery on Friday evening.

This photo–taken after dark –shows more flames. The caption reads “we may have lost the winery.”

“There was about half-an-hour where the entire facility looked like it was pretty much surrounded,” Church & State’s John Pullen told Global News.

“We didn’t really know whether it was going to go up, but when wind kind of shifted, it looked like it hadn’t caught and looked like it was OK at that time.”

They’re grateful to have escaped.

“If it had made it further down in the property, we wouldn’t have been crushing this year. It would have been the end of our season,” said Pullen.

On Saturday many wineries had plenty of customers, who came down to support businesses that from the backbone of the southern Okanagan’s economy.

What remains to be seen is if Friday and Saturday’s heavy smoke has a long-term impact on this year’s crop.

The warm weather was expected to produce the best vintage in some time. Now, at least south of Oliver, the prognosis is uncertain.

“Last night there were a ton of smoke in the area. The impact it may have on the fruit and the grapes, I’m not quite certain,” admitted Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes.

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