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SAM Magazine—Kelowna, B.C., Aug. 28, 2023— More than 1,000 wildfires have scorched Canada this summer, marking the country’s fourth consecutive year of grappling with severe drought conditions. PanoramaCourtesy of Panorama Mountain ResortMountain communities in British Columbia have been directly impacted and ski areas have stepped up to help. In a hopeful turn of events, remnants of Tropical Storm Hilary journeyed far enough northward last week, aiding in the suppression of some of the wildfires that have ravaged areas of British Columbia. 

Christopher Nicolson, CEO of the Canada West Ski Areas Association, said that so far, the fires have not reached ski areas in the western region.

“We have been in frequent communication with ski areas and government officials and thankfully we are not aware of any ski area under imminent threat,” said Nicolson. 

On Aug. 26, two evacuation orders near Kelowna—northwest of Big White ski area—were lifted as crews were able to contain the Walroy Lake and Clarke Creek wildfires. About 1,800 residents were permitted to return to their homes. However, at press time, the McDougall Creek fire just west of Kelowna remains uncontained, having already destroyed more than 170 homes and encompassing an area of 30,437 acres. 

Big White opened its accommodations and RV parking spaces, and also extended restaurant hours, for evacuees. More than 1,800 people sought refuge at the resort at the height of the emergency. The resort opened its Kids Centre with programming to keep the little ones occupied while parents dealt with the emergency situation. 

A fundraising pancake breakfast, attended by more than 500 Big White community members and wildfire evacuees, raised $1,261 for Mamas for Mamas, a local charity aiding evacuated families. Additionally, Big White collaborated with the local chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to cater to evacuees with pets, offering essentials like pet supplies and food.

“As the resort continues to adapt to the evolving situation, this crisis reminds us of the importance of coming together during difficult times in our communities, the unwavering commitment to supporting families and children demonstrates the true essence of community spirit, thank you to everyone who has shown their support, and our hearts continue to go out to those who have been impacted by these devastating wildfires,” read a message posted to Big White’s website.

To the northeast near East Kootenay and Panorama Mountain Resort, nearly 1,000 dwellings were under an evacuation order at the height of the Horsethief Creek wildfire. Panorama provided complimentary meals to firefighters and volunteer crews, some who came from the U.S., Mexico, and Australia to help battle the blazes. 

“As the rain set in, we finally got the chance to meet and say a huge, heartfelt thank you to some of the incredible firefighters who have been protecting Panorama and our region from the Horsethief Creek Wildfire this summer,” said Panorama president and CEO Steve Paccagnan. “While the battle continues, the sense of unity, support, and resilience shines through, embodying the true spirit of the community.”

“No amount of words can truly express our immense gratitude to all the amazing professionals and volunteer crews that have stood as a protective shield for our community over the past month and continue to keep us safe,” he added. “We'd also like to give a special shout out to the Panorama Fire Department who have dedicated their time to protecting Panorama and who continue to support crews battling fires in nearby communities and the Okanagan.”