When the Grouse Complex wildfire grew out of control and surrounded the Central Okanagan, firefighters from across the province, the country and the world jumped into action to protect the local community.
Right now, there are hundreds of foreign firefighters in West Kelowna working long hours in challenging conditions to save people’s homes.
Some of the crews working on the front lines have come from impoverished communities in countries like South Africa.
Currently, more than 250 wildfire fighters from South Africa are working in West Kelowna.
Wayne Dorman, a local business owner who grew up in Cape Town during Apartheid, explained that many of his fellow countrymen who are working tirelessly to protect houses around West Kelowna come from densely populated “squatters camps,” where they live in hand-made tin homes without electricity or running water.
“They come with nothing, just to help us.”
Local businesses provided donations for the hundreds of foreign firefighters working to keep people in West Kelowna safe from wildfires. More at kelownacapnews.com♬ original sound - Kelowna Capital News
Growing up, Dorman’s family instilled in him the importance of acceptance, hard work and giving back to the community. He attended one of the first ‘mixed’ boarding schools in South Africa, where he witnessed the cruelty, racism and hardship that waited for his friends each day, outside of the school gates.
“For them to leave their families and travel to a foreign country and then to walk into fires is a whole other ball game,” said Dorman.
Dorman explained that these brave people travel around the world and run towards fire when most people run away.
Inspired by the sacrifices of his compatriots, Dorman worked to organize a large donation for the firefighters in order to show his appreciation.
He runs Dogzies Pet Services, a dog training and socialization business in Kelowna. Dorman used his connections and role as a leader in the community to gather donations and fill the back of his pickup truck with little luxuries, like snacks, cards, soccer balls and beverages for the hardworking firefighters.
When presented with the donations, the soccer ball was an immediate hit. While there may not be much leisure time for the fire crews who work from sun up to sun down for weeks at a time, the small, round, memory of home — where soccer is played by nearly everyone — brought a smile to some dirty faces.
Dorman hopes to encourage those in positions of privilege to pause and “be appreciative that people from other countries are coming here to help us.”