KELOWNA, B.C. – A children’s summer camp located on Okanagan Lake in British Columbia’s Interior has been destroyed by the McDougall Creek wildfire.
Okanagan Anglican Camp director Ian Dixon said fire has levelled more than 90 per cent of its critical infrastructure, including the dining hall, crafts centre, staff quarters, residence building and dock.
“We are expecting near-total devastation. We can see a few things still standing, but they were not overly important buildings,” said Dixon.
The camp, located north of the fire-ravaged city of Kelowna, welcomed about 1,300 children this season and has been serving the community for more than 70 years.
The camp received an evacuation alert on Thursday morning, but staff had already decided to get everyone off the premises. Campers and staff alike had safely relocated to St. Michael’s and All Angels Cathedral by the end of the day.
Dixon said flames had engulfed the camp by Friday morning, turning the serene site into a scene of destruction.
“The fire was much more than anyone could have ever imagined,” said Dixon, adding it was devastating to see the camp gone.
He said the fire wiped out more than just buildings – it erased years’ worth of memories for staff and campers, too.
A few days before the wildfires erupted, Dixon said the camp hosted Ukrainian refugees, some of whom had just arrived in Canada.
The camp’s destruction is all the more poignant, Dixon said, since it came so close to the end of an otherwise successful season.
He said he hopes the camp can reopen next year but fears there will be many challenges to overcome first.
“With all the destruction, we’re going to be in a long process of when we can get access and how quickly they can make things safe and how quickly we can start healing,” he said.
Dixon said the camp may have to rely on some community generosity during the rebuilding effort.
“Hopefully, out of each adversity comes opportunity. And we can build back a better and stronger camp.”
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