Wildfire Update (23 08 22)

A message from Executive Director Michael Shapcott, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023

Looking up Tuesday afternoon in Salmon Arm, we saw something we haven’t seen in days: patches of blue sky with white clouds. Rain yesterday and today helped clear intense smoke that has choked the Shuswap since a huge wildfire crossed from the north to the south and bore down on Sorrento and our beloved Centre starting Friday.

While fire behaviour is expected to decrease, it is too early to declare an end to the volatile fire. On Sunday, a lightning strike at Broderick Creek (not far from Sorrento) caused a new fire. It is under control after a quick response. On Tuesday afternoon, Environment Canada issued a severe thunder watch advisory, warning of lightning, hail, wind gusts and rain.

Here is part of the official BC Wildfire report for Sorrento on Tuesday: “There is currently increased fire activity in this area, and the local fire department is working with BC Wildfire Service with a task force of three engines and two tenders. An initial attack crew will support overnight.” Wildfire services has structure support teams protecting 18 buildings in north Sorrento, and an Initial Attack Crew and unit crew are working in western Sorrento. A fire guard is being created to the west and south of Sorrento to stop the spread of the fire.

Our main campus in north Sorrento and our farm in west Sorrento are under an evacuation order. All our almost 200 guests for BC Swing Camp were safely evacuated by Friday afternoon, along with our staff. Most staff are in Salmon Arm, Enderby and Vernon. A few who live outside the evacuation zone are sheltering safely in their homes. Everyone is safe for now.

We don’t know the current condition of the land and buildings on our main campus, nor do we know what is happening at our farm. It is too dangerous to visit the areas under evacuation order, and it would interfere with the strong efforts of firefighters.

Earlier today, our IT consultant was able to log on remotely and confirm that all internet ports in several buildings at the Sorrento Centre are working. This means power has been restored. The fire burned power lines to the west of our campus.   

It is impossible to assess the damage so far from the wildfire to our Centre and farm. It is impossible to predict the course of the fire in the next few days. On one day last week, the fire raced more than 20k in less than 12 hours. It remains dangerously close. Our Centre and farm remain under evacuation order.

Some early assessments have begun on the impact of the wildfire on other communities in the North and South Shuswap. Our Centre is convening a virtual meeting of agencies and organizations that work in our area to share information, identify needs and discuss ways we can support each other in the current crisis and into the future.

The situation remains extremely risky and dynamic. We will continue to offer daily updates. It is a challenging time for our beloved Centre. We are grateful that our guests, staff and neighbours are safe for now. We are thankful for BC Wildfire firefighters doing their best. We are thankful for emergency services staff and many volunteers supporting evacuees. The messages of love and support from our friends near and far lift our hearts. All prayers ascending to the divine are a comfort to all of us.

Some words from the Anglican Night Prayer:

Lord it is night. The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.
It is night after a long day. What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done; let it be.
The night is dark. Let our fears of the darkness of the world
and of our own lives rest in you.
The night is quiet. Let the quietness of your peace enfold us,
all dear to us, and all who have no peace.  The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.
In your name we pray.

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