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Father-son duo fights South Okanagan wildfire to save their home

Their neighbour’s home was lost in the blaze

A Kelowna native lost his home in the Keremeos Creek wildfire on July 30.

Les Mursza grew up in Kelowna before moving to Green Mountain, where he has lived ‘off the grid’ for the past 12 years.

Due to the home’s unique structure and remote location, Mursza was not able to insure the structure or its contents.

A GoFundMe page has been organized to help Mursza rebuild what was destroyed in the fire and to find temporary lodging in the meantime.

Despite being neighbours with Mursza, Caillum Smith of Preserved Light Photography, and partner Alison Lujan, were able to evade the blaze.

On July 30, Smith and Lujan grabbed their dogs and left their home, fearing for their lives when Mursza’s home was ignited by an ember, creating a 200-foot wall of fire that was moving towards them.

(Caillum Smith/Preserved Light Photography)
(Caillum Smith/Preserved Light Photography)

After spending the night in safety, thinking their home and belongings would surely be charred, the couple returned to find that their house was narrowly missed by the blaze.

They spent the next day creating fire breaks, clearing the yard of fuel, digging trenches and organizing water systems like sprinklers, working under the direction of Caillum’s father, an experienced former firefighter of 20 years, and the B.C. Wildfire Service, which had arrived to help protect the property.

(Caillum Smith/Preserved Light Photography)
(Caillum Smith/Preserved Light Photography)

On Aug. 1, the fire doubled back towards their house, but this time they were ready.

“It circled us like a predator,” said Caillum.

In conjunction with B.C. Wildfire Service and the Keremeos fire department, the father-son duo and Lujan fought off the blaze.

By 10 p.m. that night, the fire was sparking at their property line.

“That’s when the fight started,” said Caillum.

Clay and Caillum Smith fighting the Keremeos Creek wildfire (Caillum Smith/Preserved Light Photography)
Clay and Caillum Smith fighting the Keremeos Creek wildfire (Caillum Smith/Preserved Light Photography)

They protected the mountain-side property with hoses and sprinklers, managing embers and spot fires as they appeared, following the direction of the professionals.

Caillum said that he was impressed with the skills and knowledge of the wildfire crew assigned to protect their home.

The GoFundMe for Mursza can be found here.

Clay Smith, father, digging a trench to prevent encroachment of the fire (Caillum Smith/Preserved Light Photography)
Clay Smith, father, digging a trench to prevent encroachment of the fire (Caillum Smith/Preserved Light Photography)


@Rangers_mom
Jacqueline.Gelineau@kelownacapnews.com

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Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

I'm a reporter in the beginning stages of my career. I joined the team at Capital News in November 2021...
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