Burn Down, Build Up   2 comments

It was 2003, August, a typical summer day in the Okanagan.  Nothing was ever typical again in the Kelowna area after the day a lightening strike started a fire that became a holocaust along the ridge above that city, descending toward the 90,000 or so residents present at that time.  It was like a fiery curtain dropping upon the stage of a Wagnerian opera.  The latter true because there were great heroes in the battle to fight this thoughtless enemy.  Over 60,000 acres were scorched, hundreds of homes destroyed and many others damaged with many people displaced for over a year, if not forever.  Finally contained 36 days after it began, smoldering fires occasionally relit all the way into the spring after the snows melted.  Yet, there were those heroes during and after the fire.  During, it was the firefighters from many locations that came to battle the beast.  While much was lost, not one life was lost.  The Okanagan Mountain Park Fire had many specific affects on the people of the area.  One in particular was the destruction of 14 of the 18 railroad trestles that formed a key section of the Kettle Valley Railway Trail through Myra Canyon.  In a few short miles there were 18 trestles clinging to the side of the canyon walls at over 4000 feet, but 3000 feet above the valley and the town of Kelowna below.  The KVRT is a huge trail project but for biking amateurs like us this is the section most visited due to the incredible scenery, trestles and tunnels.  This, along with the wine, attracts many tourists to this area in the Okanagan.  But the fire threatened all of this.

Photo “stolen” without credit from a kiosk on the Myra Canyon Trestles section of the KVRT. The destruction of one of the 14 destroyed trestles, of 18 along the trail.

Faced with destruction of the trail’s trestle’s, and in the context with so much other reconstruction, the region, city, civic groups and businesses came together and completely rebuilt the trestles.  Much of it, if not most, with volunteer labor often working in precarious situations.  If you bike at all, you must come here to see the fruit of their efforts.

Sammy is a trail host for this section of the KVRT.  She is a friendly and enthusiastic supporter of the trail.  Her friends are jealous of her job which takes her outside all day, meeting and helping people on the trail.  She will fix a tire and patch up a scrape.  She loves her job and it shows.  She and another trail host clearly remember the events of 2003, though they were still young.  She and her family were evacuated but her companion host’s family lost their home to the flames.  He and hundreds of others had to live with family or friends for over a year until their homes were rebuilt.

Sammy, a trail host on the KVRT, a mature and enthusiastic supporter of the trail who remembers the horrors of the great fire of 2003.

Today, evidence of the fires is all too plain.  The boundary between destruction and preservation is often measured in feet.  Ten years later, though black  charred trunks stand like an army’s spikes the lower forest is regrowing, providing lush habitat for many animals, flowers, berries and cover.  What is not so good for us in the long haul may be best for a forest, as painful as that might be.

Lush regrowth 10 years after the fire.

Trestles hang precipitously above the canyon.

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Posted July 7, 2012 by papaandnana in Roadtrip

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2 responses to “Burn Down, Build Up

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  1. I couldn’t resist commenting. Perfectly written!

  2. Pingback: Travel Throwback - Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway » Have Blog Will Travel

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