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West Kelowna school awaits wildfire clearance

Mar Jok and Rose Valley elementary school still within evacuation zone

All the public schools in West Kelowna in the path of the Grouse Complex wildfires appear to have emerged unscathed.

And for that, Central Okanagan Public School superintendent/CEO Kevin Kaardal is grateful for the efforts of firefighters.

Kaardal said Rose Valley Elementary was particularly in harm’s way, as the McDougall Creek wildfire reached the fence line but was held back by firefighters.

“They did a phenomenal job and I am incredibly grateful,” said Kaardal.

While saving the $75 million West Kelowna water treatment plant was a significant firefighting win, Kaardal said keeping the flames away from the Rose Valley school preserved a $40 million infrastructure investment in the city, the loss of which would have a major impact on students and parents.

“My gratitude knows no bounds in what they did for the school. Sadly we offer our condolences for anyone who lost a home or business, but we are grateful for the homes and the schools the emergency firefighting operations were able to save,” he said.

Kaardal explained the process for the school district to reach out to parents who lost their homes as already begun by school principals, and the district has funding resources to assist with student fees and other sundry shortfalls.

The school district also has staff trained in critical incident event response to assist students dealing with post-fire trauma.

“Even where families were affected, these events can be triggering to people who have dealt with the impact of forest fires in their past,” he said.

As of Monday in West Kelowna, only Mar Jok Elementary School were still in evacuation zones.

“North Glenmore Elementary is out of the evacuation zone now so we are just waiting on that final school,” he said.

“Our expectation is all the schools will be able to open when classes resume (on Sept. 5). But we await the experts to determine that.

“Lots goes into dealing with the impact of a wildfire with downed powerlines etc., so lots of work has to happen. So we wait like everyone else for the EOC updates and are happy to do our small part to help out.”

That help included providing computer equipment support for the EOC, and backup temporary lodging which did not ultimately have to be used, and the move of the reception centre for evacuees from Royal LePage Arena to Mount Boucherie Secondary School.

READ MORE: McDougall Creek wildfire continues to grow in West Kelowna


Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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