Although it has been weeks since White Rock Lake wildfire evacuees have been able to return to their homes in the Killiney Beach area, the area looks much the same as when the fire ripped through the community.
After dozens of homes burned to the ground, some locals who remain said it’s like being in a ghost town.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s like a bomb went off,” Estamont resident Marvel Hughes said.
The siding on Marvel Hughes’ home melted as the wildfire ripped through Estamont, but he counts himself as one of the lucky ones.
“It missed us. It just missed us. I don’t know why,” he said.
Still, like many others, he hasn’t yet permanently returned to his home.
“Basically we don’t have a proper fridge. We have a little fridge. We’ve got water. We’ve got hydro but no TV, no Internet,” Hughes said.
Lisa Hesby watched on surveillance video as sparks flew across her front porch.
She credits the fireboat saving her house, but her neighbours weren’t so fortunate.
It’s been tough to get clean-up services in, Hesby said.
“Getting suppliers in, contractors in, there aren’t enough,” she said.
Neighbours who lost their appliances are expecting to wait for replacements for months, she added.
“This whole place is devastated,” she added. “It’s really quite depressing to see.”
“Having people drive through is disconcerting, the looky loos, because you don’t know if they’re there to pick through what’s left of your life or not,” Hesby said.
Meanwhile, Killiney Beach is still under a ‘do not consume’ order for water.
“It’s been very tough because our friends have gone, the houses are gone and it’s really hard,” Killiney Beach resident Karen Morris said. “We can’t drink the water. We’re getting septic smells.”
“But we’re one of the lucky ones, so I can’t really complain,” she added.
“I mean we feel very guilty that we’re still here because you have the survivor’s guilt,” she added.
Central Okanagan West Director Wayne Carson said the regional district is in recovery mode and working to restore infrastructure and services, including water for Killiney Beach.
The regional district is waiting on Interior Health for approval, he said.
Moving forward, Carson wants to see the community rebuild following the Fire Smart program and also install sprinklers for structural protection.
“This is not a volcano or an earthquake or a hurricane, this is a forest fire,” he said. “It’s about forest management and structural protection, and that’s what we need to address moving forward in our rebuilding.”