B.C. wildfires: Owner hoping West Kelowna business will rise from ashes

Click to play video: 'Victim of McDougall Creek fire finds a way to give back'
Victim of McDougall Creek fire finds a way to give back
One of the most well-know spots to burn down in the McDougall Creek wildfire was Lake Okanagan Resort. But the owner of the Tiki bar spent no time wallowing in his own loss. Instead, like many residents in West Kelowna, he jumped into action to help out his community. Jason Pires has the story – Sep 20, 2023

Part three of a three-part series, one month after the destructive McDougall Creek wildfire began in the West Kelowna area.

In the heart of West Kelowna, an eatery named Two Brothers Mexican Restaurant is popular with local residents.

Earlier this year, Antonio Ortega and his partners decided to expand – a brand-new tiki bar alongside Okanagan Lake.

It was the place to be this summer, with a DJ station, a patio and a food truck. Patrons and staff enjoyed the good vibes.

The owners say business wasn’t just good, it was great.

Click to play video: 'Four B.C. firefighters killed in collision near Kamloops'
Four B.C. firefighters killed in collision near Kamloops

Then the unthinkable happened: the McDougall Creek wildfire, with the resort squarely in the blaze’s destructive path.

Story continues below advertisement

It was a wall of flames, with winds reaching 50 to 60 km/h, and it took just 10 minutes to wipe out Ortega’s dream spot, with the business being reduced to ruins.

“We lost everything there,” said Ortega. “We lost the tiki bar, the food truck, staff with no jobs.”

Asked what his first reaction was, Ortega said “you know … that’s a lot of memories there. So yeah … it’s hard to swallow. But it is what it is.”

Despite the loss, and his torched tiki bar barely recognizable, Ortega temporarily closed his West Kelowna restaurant so staff there could focus on making meals for first responders and evacuees.

Click to play video: 'One-on-one with West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund'
One-on-one with West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund

“We understand a lot of people lost a lot of things,” said Ortega. “We know more families who lost more than we actually did.

Story continues below advertisement

“I think it’s good for us to just give something to them … just to help each other… as a community.”

Said West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund: “I think people who were scared and didn’t know how it was going to turn out, turned to making food. And they brought it here.”

Ortega said “there was no hesitation to do this,” adding “this is just not me right, this is the whole team.”

Ortega is now looking at other locations for expansion. But his long-term vision is to reopen the tiki bar and let it rise from the ashes.

“Hopefully we can bring it back,” he said. “Things happen for a reason.”

Click to play video: 'One month after the McDougall Creek wildfire'
One month after the McDougall Creek wildfire

Sponsored content