There wasn’t even time to put on my undies: Lorraine, 77, tells how she scrambled to safety from Kelowna fire

77-year-old Lorraine Kivisto wasn't even worried she scrambled from fire without her undies!

77-year-old Lorraine Kivisto wasn't even worried she scrambled from fire without her undies!


We returned home yesterday at 5:30 pm, July 22nd. The fire came as far as 3 houses away from us. When the firemen zoomed in, they did their job superbly, they saved our home and we have so much to be thankful for.

Many things happened and I sure would like to amuse you with some of them,  but I am ‘very’ tired.

As it happened, Kanaice my daughter, had left for a hard earned weekend camping trip for a girlfriend’s 50th birthday surprise party. The part was on a remote island near Victoria Island. There were no phones there – nothing but blue skies and a campsite. Fifteen girls had planned it for weeks and she left Friday Morning at 5:00 am. She took my car, leaving us with one vehicle.

That same morning, Lauraine, my niece drove my sister Norma to the hospital at 7:30 a.m for some day-surgery. Lauraine went on to work and one of our wonderful neighbors picked Norma from the hospital around 2:00pm. She needed rest and calmness.

We were all sitting around outside when the sirens started. It was around 2:30 to 3:00 pm on Saturday the 18th.

Our neighbor has a chalet type house which overlooks ours. They are one street above us – a dead end street. Across from them is a forest type setting – very beautiful until around 3:00 pm when all hell broke loose.

We looked up at their place and saw the flames form the pines across the street from their home, a little to the left from our viewpoint. The fire travelled magnificently fast. It was fascinating to the eyes, but rather hot and dangerous. I can’t really describe just how the fire jumped all around from one place to another, but it did. It burned everything is in its path. Wound up coming toward our house lickedy-split. That was when the sweet firemen came to our aid.

We live close to the house that burned to the ground. Two of the houses belonged to Gorman’s son and daughter. He is the owner of Glenrosa’s Mill, which fortunately didn’t receive too much unrepairable damage.

Anyway, we had only a few minutes to scram, grab what we could and run like Satan himself was on our tail. Never thought about the fact of how many of us had to get in the car, including the 2 dogs! The car only seats 4!. . Room on the roof? Needless to say, I was left standing there, in my nightgown (I’m housebound now) and robe, cane, no undies, no pockets, my purse and pills in Lauraine’s car. Everyone crowded in the car but me.

Just then, an unknown neighbour drove by with one seat available, yelled at me to get in (what a struggle and sight that was) and off we went to the community center. The neighbour and her wee children were all in their bathing suits, just coming back from a swim when they saw the smoke. She saw me waiting at the gat and stopped. To boot, my “family” and I had not made arrangement of where to meet.

Upon arriving at the Westbank Recreation Center we were informed we had to go to another center, the Royal Lepage Center that was safe. It was quite a way off and a car was needed to get me there. So what else is new? My drive could not take me there. She had to get another child from a school function.

Just then, another kind lady came along in a truck. I cannot get into truck anymore because of my legs. They pushed and pushed and finally I made it. Hee ,hee. Another sight. We got to the center. She dropped me off and there I was without my walker and it seemed like a mile to walk to the entrance! That can had quit a workout.

I sat outside for about 3 hours waiting for ‘my people’. I left a message on Lauraine’s cell phone, then another, then another. I of course, was not using my own cell phone as I do not have one. The end result was that Lauraine’s cell phone was not working but I did not know this.

In the meantime, I am waiting, waiting, waiting. I have developed patience in my old age.

Turns out, my family had come to the center and entered by an exit door and not the front door. They had registered and were told there were no rooms at any hotel, so had headed to Vernon. They had almost reached Vernon when they were contacted by the ESS to return as I was waiting at the center. You see I asked the registration desk if they had registered. They had and I had a number to contact. It was my Nephew’s son who had just arrived for a visit. Now all I had to do was wait for them to come back.

In the meantime, a lovely helper for the evacuees kept coming over to check on me. She was so kind and offered to call a friend of hers to help out. In the end, her friend and husband put up my whole family, including dogs, until the next afternoon. I might add, they have a beautiful large home in Lakeview Heights, Kelowna.

The next day, the center called to tell us we were booked at the West Kelowna Sandman Inn, in 2-2 bedroom suites, full kitchen, layout specifically for handicapped people. Large bathroom, bar supports everywhere, large seat in the extra large shower, even an ironing board, iron, hair blower, dishwasher, micro, fridge, ice bucket (hee hee). There was a large wall TV in the front room with cornered couch. Another wall TV in the bedroom which sported a kind sized bed. Phones in both front room and bedroom. We had landed in Heaven!

It was wonderful time to really have family chats without the usual interruptions. Some of the chats we had were about the fact we had neglected to lock any of the doors to the house or the 5th wheel where the kids were going to sleep. Maybe that’s a good thing. At least they won’t have damaged the doors.

But, we got through it all, intake, blessed by the powers above. Everything was copacetic. Kanaice, my daughter, came back on the Tuesday to the Hotel (she finally found out where we were through various hilarious sources) and now I am ‘really’ ready to get into my own bed.

Oh, I forgot, none of our phone was working. All the wires had been burned but we have them on now, July 23rd. We are so lucky and so very thankful that nothing else is out of sync.

Did you enjoy my epic story? We have a very interesting life here in ‘the Hen House’.

Copyright 2009-2014, Vancouverite News Service.

Posted by on Jul 25 2009. Filed under B.C.. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

4 Comments for “There wasn’t even time to put on my undies: Lorraine, 77, tells how she scrambled to safety from Kelowna fire”

  1. Theresa Thompson

    Thank you, thank you, to all the people who helped in the rescue of my Aunts Lorraine and Norma, my two cousins Lauraine and Kathy and her son. It is gratifying to know that terrible times can bring out great kindness in people. ( i.e. Gandor NFL. during 911). As my cousin Jamie has written,those of us who have or may have in the future, age disabilities and loss of independance can rest easy knowing that they can depend on the helpfulness of others. Again, thank you and merci from Whitby, Ontario.

  2. Barbara Teichman


    I love your sense of humour. I imagine it helps you a lot in times of stress when you are able to see the humourous side of things. You should write a book of short stories! I would buy it and, I’m sure, enjoy many laughs. I also love that when you write, you always put the ‘hee hee’ at the end of a funny sentence. It tells me how much you are enjoying yourself, as well, in the face of adversity. On the more serious side, I emailed you during the evacuation and knew that you must have had to leave your home when I did not receive an email back. I knew that everyone was OK, as the news was clear that everyone had been safely evacuated, but was still concerned until I had a reply from you…..I am very happy that all of you are safe and home again (with a home still standing for you to come home to!)

  3. Thank-you to the people of WestBank and Kelowna during the Glenrosa Fires on Sat. July 18th 2009 in assisting and watching over my family and relatives (Mom, Aunt, Two Sisters and Nephew). If it were not for the kindness of strangers I don’t think it would have turned out as well as it did in a very stressful time, for them and many other families. From a concerned son, brother, and uncle from Barrie, Ontario, I hope my Aunt’s story not only brings some humour and lightness in a difficult time, but also a better understanding of how anyone with age disablities and loss of independance in need of the kindness of strangers can be given relief and peace of mind. Thank-you.

  4. Lorraine your an amazing woman! We learned so much about evacuations, that I never would have thought about. Oh and I guess that old adage, “change your underwear before you go out” . . . Heehee.

Leave a Reply