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'They saved our neighbourhood': Family thanks Central Saanich firefighters for saving Kelowna home

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Malindi Elmore and her family came to Central Saanich fire hall Monday, laden with cards and sandwiches, to thank members of the fire department for saving their home in Kelowna from wildfires.

“They saved our house, they saved our neighbourhood,” Elmore said, after her two young sons had given firefighters homemade cards. “They’ve been instrumental in protecting our house and our city,” she said.

Elmore and her family evacuated on Thursday night from their Kelowna home, as the fire leapt across Okanagan Lake. They’ve since made their way to Vancouver Island to stay with family, but she and her neighbours watched anxiously from remote cameras in Kelowna for a couple days as crews protected their property

 “Watching the video — we all have webcams on the back of our homes, on the front of our homes – they're putting themselves between a raging fire and themselves and spraying it down,” Elmore marvelled Monday. “And we have homes to go back to because of what they were doing.”

 Central Saanich’s fire chief, Kenn Mount, has stayed back with other crewmembers, in case they’re needed on the South Island. He said he was proud Monday, upon hearing the praise for his team helping in Kelowna.

“It makes me proud to be a fire chief,” said Mount, before he greeted Elmore at the station. “They’d be humbled, doing their job, knowing that they're there to make a difference.”

The worst of the fires has shifted to the Shuswap area, but the battle with the flames continues in the Okanagan, where they revealed Monday the first estimate of damage – more than 50 homes in parts of West Kelowna alone, a number expected to rise significantly once more assessments are done.

Forestry Minister Bruce Ralston noted that a record 652 structural firefighters, some from Vancouver Island, helped preserved thousands of homes.

“The homes and communities saved this weekend in the face of great threats is a testament to the skill and determination of all those working to save those fires,” said Ralston.

Meanwhile, wildfires burn on Vancouver Island, including one in Strathcona Park that’s deemed out of control.

Thankfully, none of the flames have come close to homes yet, allowing Island structural crews to lend a hand where they're needed most.

“It’s easy to take these things for granted, the heroes, the frontliners who protect our communities, and who are willing to put themselves in the face of danger to save our homes," said Elmore.

It's a sentiment that was meaningful to Central Saanich’s fire chief.

“The appreciation, the appreciation coming back — is appreciated,” said Mount.

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