Gord Grisenthwaite

Writer ♦ Photographer

Under Alien Sun

“Under Alien Sun” is one evacuee’s experience during the Okanagan Firestorm of 2003. It was published in Touch the Flame: Stories from the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire, (2004 Northstone Publishing, ISBN: 1-896836-68-2), complied by Jorie Soames & Glenna Turnbull.

The air was thick with foreshadowing, a cross between the sophisticated, quiet terror of Alfred Hitchock’s work and the cheesy, over the top sort of daytime television. It was thick with other stuff, too. For about eleven days breathing had been a chore; more than once I seriously considered admiting myself to the hospital.

The Okanagan valley was under a thick, grey-black smoke tent that muffled sound, cast ash like snow flurries and painted the sun alien red-orange. We watched the sky, the horizon and constantly looked over our shoulders each time we stepped outside. As the fire burned nearer the city, licked up neighbourhoods in the Mission, as more families were placed on alert or evacusted, we convinced ourselves the fire could’t touch us not on Black Mountain. The news people overreacted. Their reports were sensationalized. When the fire’s licking at my doorstep, I’ll act, I thought. After all, I’d lived through devastating forest fires before, fires that had burned way closer to my childhood home, Lytton, than this one, at least that first night.