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Monday, October 24, 2011

O is for Okanagan fires and our smoke

Forest fires, often caused by lightning and often by human error, seem to happen all too often in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, where I grew up.

In the summer of 2010, west winds blew smoke from an Okanagan Valley fire, more than halfway across BC, over many mountains and large lakes, such as the Arrow Lakes and Kootenay Lake, over the Rocky Mountains and most of the way across Alberta, to our home near the city of Medicine Hat, and probably farther.

Kelowna, which was a small Okanagan city when I was going to school, is a sprawling city now.
Wikimedia photo
The month of May was beautiful when we visited the Okanagan Valley.
By summer, only farms and orchards are green.
Smoke hovering over the coulee near our house where Dick and Lindy go walking.

I was worried about Lindy's breathing, and my own, and then I worried about these horses.
I have no idea who owns them, but they were out there, in the smoke, day and night.

Colorful sunsets are the only good thing about smoke in the air. (Too much loss for too little gain.)
© Richard Schear photos

Out of curiosity, I did some calculating. If the smoke were traveling by car, its shortest route from Kelowna to our neighborhood would be 889 kilometres or 553 miles, on Highway 1, the Trans-Canada Highway. It would have to cross the Rockies through places such as Banff and Lake Louise, where some of the mountains are 2900m to 3500m high (9700 to 11,600 feet). The southern route, 1012km or 628 miles, crosses the Rockies at the Crowsnest Pass, and takes much longer to drive (we're still supposing the smoke is traveling by car) because the mountain roads bend and twist a great deal more.

As smoke from forest fires travels through the lower atmosphere on the wind, and not by car, chances are it did cross the Arrow Lakes, drifted over Valhalla Provincial Park, across Kootenay Lake and the Purcell Wilderness Provincial Park, crossing the border into Alberta somewhere southeast of Elkford and northeast of Sparwood, BC, toward Claresholm, Alberta. Then, with no more mountains in its way, the smoke had an easy trip on our prevailing winds, which almost always blow from the west, right across to our town where Highway 1 heads into Medicine Hat.

Posted for the letter O
in Mrs. Nesbitt's alphabetical meme ABC Wednesday
To see how the letter O inspired other bloggers, please click  HERE!

33 comments:

Carola Bartz said...

I remember those fires. We were just leaving the Okanagan Valley to return home, but on our way we saw the smoke and everywhere you could smell the fires. It's just plain scary.

Martha Z said...

While forest fires at the high elevation of our cabin are rare, it is not rare for us to get smoke from fires elsewhere. The smoke can irritate the lungs and the eyes.
One summer when there were persistent fires in the west we flew to the east coast. I was amazed at how far it extended, how much of the country was affected.

Reader Wil said...

Forest fires are devastating. I saw it once in Indonesia, when we were in the mountains . We lived for a short time in a bungalow and from there we could see the fire on an opposite mountainrange. We didn't get smoke fortunately, but it was frightening. I was still very young, but I can remember it well. My Australian family live in the middle of the rainforest.
I hope that you and Dick are in good health in spite of the smoke! Are you happy to be home again?

magiceye said...

forest fires are scary..!

Gattina said...

It's such a beautiful landscape ! Forest fires are terrible, we had one here in the Ardennes a couple of years ago. You are a day in advance, lol !

SquirrelQueen said...

The smoke really looks thick in the last two photos. I remember hearing about these fires. I don't think the smoke got down this far but then we have our own summer fires so it's hard to tell.

Glad you like the Duck joke, my husband emailed that one to me.

KaHolly said...

Forest fires are scary! I worry so for the poor animals. I guess we have to trust in Mother Nature.

diane b said...

We were in that area during those fires. We couldn't see the mountains for two days.

VioletSky said...

I have never had to deal with forest fires down in my part of the province, but I do feel for all of you who can be threatened by them.

mrsnesbitt said...

We live on the North York Moors and understand about fire hazzards.
A great O post - as always.
Thanks so much
Denise

Seasons said...

Kay, these are beautiful pictures no doubt, especially of the sunset. These forest fires...yet another challenge to contend with. I hope, all of you stay safe.

With all the precise pointers and directions, might I visit you sometime for coffee or tea? 'O', just kidding! Take care.

Laurie Kolp said...

oh...we're having quite a time with wildfires here in TX b/c of the record-breaking drought. = )

Carver said...

Forest fires can be very frightening. Great post and take on the letter O.

Ms. Burrito said...

Beautiful photos!

Please come and take a look at my O entry, have a good day!

Nanka said...

Forest fires are so devastating for life and property!! Very scary and to mention a few other things like the release of smoke, ash, dust, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and other air pollutants. Cough!! Cough!! I am wheezing just thinking about it!!
Wish you a safe and healthy life!!

Rajesh said...

Beautiful shots. Sunset is glorious.

anthonynorth said...

We don't get many in the UK but I remember when I was in the RAF we were called out to assist in digging fire breaks up a hill in the Malvern Hills. It was frightening hard work, but deeply satisfying when we beat it.
Stunning pics in your post.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Those were terrible fires but your pictures are good. I forgot that you grew up in the Northwest

Roger Owen Green said...

what a way smoke can travel. amazing, and potentially dangerous.
ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Francisca said...

I heard about those fires. I articled in Kelowna and still have one good friend living there. It was no fun for her and her family.

Paula Scott said...

I agree-too much loss for too little gain. A great post!

Carola said...

Your photo with the horse is awesome. Perfect.
Interesting post. Forest fires are incredible. I saw the devastation in Yellowstone.
I like this BC area very much, we walked there (I think I told you).

kaykuala said...

Very informative Kay! Educational too! A fire anywhere can be just as bad anywhere at all. Sad thing is it can develop into something big and uncontrollable. Very good 'O'

Hank

Lew said...

Breathing taking! Both visually and for the lungs.

Hildred and Charles said...

We are so close to Kelowna, but amazingly didn't get as much smoke from that fire as you likely did, Kay. We are very vulnerable to smoke from Washington State though, - the smoke snakes up from the south, lying low in the valley and covering the Similkameen hills.

Kay L. Davies said...

@ Lew — LOL, good one, Lew!

K

chubskulit said...

Stunning views Kay!

Learn some Filipino custom and words with my O entry. Come and see.

Joy said...

Sounds very scary. We've just had a gorse fire here but a minuscule event in comparison to yours.

EG Wow said...

It does seem like the Okanagan has more than it share of forest fires. I am amazed that the smoke travels over the Rockies!

Tumblewords: said...

Horrific fires. It is amazing how far the smoke travels and how rapidly.

ChrisJ said...

It's our fire season right now, but our weather has been humid so we've had little risk so far. But tomorrow they are forecasting 6-12% humidity very low for us along the coast. It's to be windy too, which is not good, but our temperatures will not be going higher than 72, so that helps.

Meryl said...

Beautiful shots!

Jo Bryant said...

love the photos - the third one is breathtaking