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British Columbia Fire: Winemaker re-lives ‘terrifying’ near miss

British Columbia wine producer Glenn Fawcett prepared himself for the worst as flames from the recent British Columbia Fire in Okanagan Valley surged across the nearby hillside.

Glen Fawcett, president of Black Hills Estate Winery, and several of his neighbours in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley had a near escape after flames spread quickly.

Dozens of homes were evacuated during the recent British Columbia fire in Okanagan Similkameen district and a state of emergency was declared in Oliver last weekend, where Black Hills Estate is located.

‘We saw a little bit of smoke at 7:30pm and within a couple of hours we thought “oh jeez”, there’s smoke coming out of the hills now,’ Fawcett told Decanter.com. ‘We reported it to the fire service, but the wind picked up and within another hour there was 1,000 acres up in flames.

‘It was just growing, and coming down the valley to vineyards and houses. It looked wildly out of the control and the wind was gusting – too windy for helicopters [to douse flames].’

Photos on social media captured the vast area of hillside on fire.

‘We weren’t sure whether it would cross the valley to our side, so we were packing up all of our valuables. It was absolutely terrifying – we had a front row seat.’

Fortunately for Fawcett and many residents, the wind changed and firefighters were able to bring the fire under control. Flames came to within feet of some vineyards in the Golden Mile area south of Oliver, which sits in the middle of Canada’s only official desert.

Local residents and wineries thanked firefighters on Twitter.

Smoke taint is now a concern, Fawcett said, but he believes the strong winds may have – ironically – helped to disperse smoke.

‘We’ve been extremely fortunate,’ Fawcett said, adding the the 2015 wine harvest looks promising after a longer than average growing season. Black Hills Estate specialises in Bordeaux blends.

A BC spokesperson told Decanter.com on Monday this week that, despite tense moments, wineries and vineyards in the area were thought to have survived unscathed.

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