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‘Laugh and cry and repeat’: West Kelowna woman’s motto after losing home in wildfire

Over 50 structures have been confirmed lost, damaged from the McDougall Creek fire
A screengrab from aerial footage over McNaughton Road in West Kelowna after the McDougall Creek wildfire swept through. The circled area is where the MacKay’s rental home was located. (contributed)

Heather MacKay says she may have lost her rental home and everything inside it, but she still considers herself rich because she has her family.

MacKay left for work on Thursday morning knowing her home was on evacuation alert in West Kelowna and took some important documents and jewelry and left.

“My husband said on a scale of one to 10, the chance of us being evacuated was a two.”

An hour or so later her husband called and said she needed to get home quickly and pack a bag because an evacuation order came down due to the McDougall Creek fire. By the time she got there, the road was closed and she had to trust her husband and two daughters to pack up the necessities and evacuate.

“They couldn’t find my swimsuits or my shorts, so I have lots of jeans and shirts I haven’t worn in a year and my pink power suit and two pairs of underwear.”

The MacKay family of four was living in a rental home on McNaughton Road and knew there would be nothing to return to after a camera they had set up in a cupboard to catch a rodent, set off a notification that activity was taking place, but instead of a mouse it was smoke billowing before the lens followed by a smoke alarm.

“We are grateful that we were able to find out so quickly that we’d lost our home. We have friends that still don’t know if they have a home or not. It’s not looking good, but they don’t know at all.”

Wedding gifts, handmade ornaments from her kids, and photos were lost in the blaze.

“My husband did grab my grandfather’s teacup that he knew was important to me, so that’s all I have.”

MacKay says they do have renters insurance, something they probably wouldn’t have even thought about if it wasn’t required by the property managers.

The MacKay’s have family in Kelowna and Peachland where they are staying temporarily.

A GoFundMe set up by MacKay’s sister has raised over $5,000 in just a couple days to support the family that includes two adult children as well as pets.

The challenge now, MacKay says, is finding rental homes in the Central Okanagan they can all afford.

“We’re hoping to find a three-bedroom, animal friendly place for my husband and I and our younger daughter. Then we’re also looking for a one-bedroom suite for our older daughter, and that’s probably going to be the hardest one because it’s really hard for a single person to pay $1,500 or more a month.”

Through it all, MacKay has been finding little joys like knowing her family is safe and laughing at what her daughters chose to pack for her.

“Laugh and cry and repeat is my current motto.”

READ MORE: Smokey with a chance of rain; West Kelowna McDougall Creek Wildfire update


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