Pots and pans clanged and brightly coloured signs expressing thanks were proudly displayed as part of a West Kelowna drive-by parade held Thursday night, celebrating firefighters across the province.
“We just want to extend our gratitude and our thanks for everything they’ve done this summer,” event organizer Erin Williams said.
“They’ve worked so hard, there have been fires everywhere and we just want to share our appreciation and our gratitude for local firefighters … and all the BC Wildfire firefighters who worked tirelessly all summer – (I have a) grateful heart.”
Williams is a Glenrosa resident and was on evacuation order from her house on Sunday when the Mount Law fire raged. She also has a cabin on Okanagan Lake, within Okanagan Indian Band lands, so it was a tense night.
Luckily, both were spared from fire and she and her family are among hundreds who are acutely aware of how close to disaster they’d be if it weren’t for firefighters.
So, too, is Glenrosa resident Lori Rapp, one of the participants of the parade. With the recent evacuation orders and alerts, plus ongoing efforts to douse the blaze, she wanted to make sure her thanks were known.
“The Glenrosa firefighters … we want to say thank you to them,” she said.
As the fire continues to burn in the hills above West Kelowna, the fear and anxiety of the fire’s weekend run is still top of mind for area residents.
“I thought for sure we were going to lose Glenrosa, to be honest; it was moving extremely fast and you’d turn around every few minutes and it was larger,” Glenrosa resident Krista Fast said.
She, like many others, opted to leave her neighbourhood, despite being on an evacuation alert simply because the fire was moving so quickly.
“We didn’t think we’d have a home to come home to,” she said.
The fire, which grew quickly Sunday, struck fear into the hearts of area residents far from its path, but Okanagan residents aren’t new to this kind of thing.
“I’m a seasoned Westbank resident. In ’03 we volunteered with ESS and in ’09 we were actually evacuated. So, yeah, I am well prepared to know what we do to get out and get safe,” Leslie Flamand, a Glenrosa Resident, said.
That said, it’s still difficult.
“Unfortunately, these things happen,” she said. “You don’t panic, make sure you have your bits and pieces together and try and keep a cool head.”
The parade went right past the West Kelowna Fire Rescue Station No. 3 at dinner time, right about the time crews changed shift. Firefighters were outside to soak in some of the richly deserved accolades.
“It’s heartwarming for sure,” said Lionel Bateman, assistant fire chief of the West Kelowna Fire Department. “It’s nice to know the community stands behind our guys”
The show of thanks was well received by all and it’s just the latest in a number of ways people are showing their gratitude, as they offer up everything from peaches to cake to beer.
“We are well taken care of,” West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund said. “What we need people to do is fire smart their homes.
“Pay attention to the things around your home that could help us fight the next wildfire.”