The Epistle of Q — Chapter Fifty

Why can’t people read the signs?
We have a new fire, this time right in the Okanagan Vallley. It’s in the Finlay Creek watershed. May not mean anything to you, but last night while attending a great jazz concert that was part of the Ryga Festival in Summerland we could not only see the smoke but also the red of the flames in the clouds billowing up. And now the fire is moving south. Moreover the smoke has intensified significantly so that I had to forego my planned bike ride up the KVR trail — that would have provided me a good view of the fire locale, but being able to breath is a little more important!!

That fires are devastating is fairly common knowledge. That the Forest Service tries their best to prevent them, and when they do start to contain them, is also known by most of us. What I don’t get is why, when we are told (through every media available) to stay out of certain back-country areas due to the high fire danger, people decide they know better than the forestry officials. It appears that the Finlay Creek fire was started by human activity. Some person(s) were seen going into the area on ATVs earlier in the day. If true, while I’m not saying they were arsonists (like some fire-starts are so people can get work fighting the very fires they start), but they certainly were devoid of common sense. Now the aircraft bombing (with fire retardant) the other fire over the mountains on the east side of the valley, are also required to work a second big fire. In addition, helicopters with water buckets are doing double-duty. (The bombers were going flat out until dusk last night and have started again — they fly right over the cottage.)

Not sure how this fire gets contained without more evacuations, but the officials will figure that out. However, if it moves very far south it gets to the edge of the Summerland area and that then includes orchards and vineyards and over in the neighbouring back-country mountain range land (where a few herds of cattle are still grazing). This is a tough summer for the trees and the grasslands in the interior of BC. And with Houston’s tragedy, I can only imagine what the price of lumber is going to be in the USA, especially if Trump keeps the excessive duties on Canadian lumber imports. By the way, as a sidebar, for anyone wondering what the cost of under-capacity in our oil/gas refining sector in Canada might be, just go to the pumps today — already a ten-cent jump in BC and it will continue to go up as we try to import more in competition with the USA needs.

On another, more enjoyable note, the Ryga Brothers Re-Union Concert last night was one more testament to the incredible amount of home-grown musical talent in the Okanagan. It reminds me of my time in PEI where music flows like good wine and not just country/folk. There are opera class singers being developed in that province — I know, because one of the young rising stars was in Italy this summer at a special “invited school for opera” and I’ve known her for ten years since she was just a kid — but I digress. The concert last night was a get-together of four musicians who in their teenage years formed a band. Now, some thirty years later they re-assembled and wow what a performance!

Campbell and Sergei Ryga are two brothers, sons of the late playwright George Ryga (he of “The Ecstasy of Rita Joe” fame) and very talented jazz/blues musicians (the former on sax, the latter on piano). They played some old favourites from when they had their band as well as some of their own compositions. Two hours of really fine music. Two hours to be thankful that we can take time away from the trials and tribulations of the world to let our brains and our emotions get recharged and refreshed. The auditorium was full — an eclectic collection of people from perhaps thirteen to ninety-three, from erstwhile academic to real-life blue collar worker, from vineyard owner to retired and contented senior to eager young entrepreneur and everyone was thoroughly entertained. It was just a fine time.

Sun is trying to shine through the smoke. Gives an eerie feeling to the place. Hope all is well in your community. Be wise — if there are signs saying “do not enter” find another destination… I’m going to breakfast now…

g.w.

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