Let's say Kelowna's on fire again. You have 5min. What are you packing?

West Kelowna fire before it jumps the lake to the Kelowna side. Photo taken August 17th, 10:02pm from Ellison hillside looking south towards downtown.

On August 18, 2023, the Province of B.C. declared a Provincial State of Emergency to support ongoing response and recovery efforts caused by wildfire.

Today is August 22nd. Four days to act, learn, watch, help...


Being an armchair philosopher, I have a theory or two about most things.

Emergencies reveal a lot about people. We saw it with COVID, and the similarities are uncanny with the severe wildfires affecting many areas in British Columbia, including my hometown, Kelowna.

  • Friends are currently evacuated from their homes. Others are still on alert.
  • 100s of firefighters are fighting fires around the clock up and down the Okanagan Valley.
  • Fire trucks and aircraft from other cities are adding to the "army of emergency support" based in West Kelowna.
  • Reactions by the general public are varied. Very varied.


Lovers and Looters

Emergencies seem to bring out the best and worst in people. Or maybe, a bit like alcohol, they more clearly reveal who we already are.

Some people become angry, uncooperative, and hostile. Maybe they look to take advantage of a situation. Multiple neighbourhoods in West Kelowna and Kelowna were evacuated over the weekend. Others were on alert. Amongst the social media turmoil, I saw reports of looters trying to steal stuff from others who focused on packing their vehicles. Just makes you shake your head...

Thankfully, most people react with love. The compassion and support I've seen over the past 4 days give me great joy (and hope for humanity. I warned you I was philosophical!)

This past weekend, the wildfires were growing closer to our house. Our family was having frank discussions about what to pack and what to leave behind. We were prepping in case our street was put on Alert or Ordered to evacuate. We live on a little farm with 50+ animals, so our situation is even more complicated.  Since the fires were still 20km away (see photo above taken from our deck), my wife and I had time to sit down with our teenage kids and write a "5 Minute List" plus an alternate list if we have more time.  In addition, we refined our farm evacuation plan... trailers, transportation of animals, essentials, etc.


You have 5min to evacuate. What are you packing?

The lists we wrote were odd. We compared our lists with each other. Then I heard through the grapevine what people around the city packed when they had virtually zero time and grabbed things on the way out of the house. The sheer variety is amazing:

  • wine bottles (necessity? some might say so)
  • stuffed animals
  • baby blankets made by my mom
  • gold bars (really?! didn't know people had these in real life)
  • mountain bike
  • sleep gummies
  • good luck bracelet from my sister
  • passport, birth certificate
  • childhood box of old cards, notes, photos
  • pappa's watercolour painting
  • vinyl records
  • heirloom jewellery
  • $30,000 electric hydrofoil (surfboard thing... I had to look it up too)
  • favourite board game (Sequence)
  • framed photos (they ain't backed up in the cloud!)
  • small cushion from home country
  • dad's golf clubs (memory of him)
  • headphones (multiple people had this on their list - music is therapy?)
  • childhood journals, sketchbook
  • signed Canucks jersey
  • laptop
  • guitar
  • favourite hats
  • pets, pets, pets! of course

The list above is from a mix of about 10 people, but the items are totally real - it's what people packed. Many of the items have very little monetary value. What people really value are sentimental items and irreplaceable things. This is a neat side effect of emergencies. Our community becomes less materialistic for a short period of time.

More community stories are shared over the next few days which give us hope.

So many people pull together. So many businesses offer to help.

Below are just two out of many examples I've seen this week.

PS. If you're local, don't forget to support these businesses - especially ones in tourism that are now facing piles of cancellations and no guests during what should be their busy season!


Kelowna Powersports offer to loan their equipment (at no cost) to the Fire Dept.

Jason Parkes Customs (group of wineries & restaurant in West Kelowna) opens their doors to feed people for free. "So far we have been able to provide 250 meals to evacuees, 150 to fire crews, and 6 local helicopter crews. The plan is to keep this going as long as we can."


Thank you

Lastly, on behalf of the Twin Creek Media team, I want to sincerely thank all firefighters, emergency services, front-line workers (plus middle-line and behind-the-scenes who support them!). I'd also like to thank local businesses and average folks who nobody hears about who are doing what they can to help with what they've got.

Stay safe, everyone!

A friend shared on Facebook this morning...

"Have you ever thought about this?

In 100 years like in 2123, we will all be buried with our relatives and friends.

Strangers will live in our homes we fought so hard to build, and they will own everything we have today. All our possessions will be unknown and unborn, including the car we spent a fortune on, and will probably be scrap, preferably in the hands of an unknown collector.

Our descendants will hardly or hardly know who we were, nor will they remember us. How many of us know our grandfather's father?

After we die, we will be remembered for a few more years, then we are just a portrait on someone's bookshelf, and a few years later, our history, photos and deeds disappear in history's oblivion. We won't even be memories.

If we paused one day to analyze these questions, perhaps we would understand how ignorant and weak the dream to achieve it all was. If we could only think about this, surely our approaches, our thoughts would change, we would be different people.

Always having more, no time for what's really valuable in this life. I'd change all this to live and enjoy the walks I've never taken, these hugs I didn't give, these kisses for our children and our loved ones, these jokes we didn't have time for. Those would certainly be the most beautiful moments to remember, after all they would fill our lives with joy.

And we waste it day after day with greed, greed and intolerance."

- Anonymous