At the children's summer camp Ian Dixon manages, this year saw more visitors than ever before, he says, including Ukrainian refugees who had recently arrived in Canada.
But last Friday, wildfires destroyed the 73-year-old Okanagan Anglican Camp, also known as Camp OAC, near West Kelowna.
"There [were] so many memories, so many stories, so many lives supported at that place," Dixon told host Chris Walker on CBC's Daybreak South Wednesday.
The fire ravaged nearly 100 properties, and Dixon says more than 90 per cent of the camp's structures were lost in the fire, including the dining hall, crafts centre, staff quarters and residence building.
"Just the lower part of the dock [is] still standing with the cross on it — the rest of it is gone."
'Providing kids with a really safe place'
Established in 1950, Camp OAC served thousands of campers over the years, including around 1,300 children this season. It can also be rented for family reunions, weddings and gatherings, according to the camp's website.
Located in Wilson's Landing, about 10 kilometres north of West Kelowna, the camp received an evacuation alert Thursday morning, prompting staff to make the decision to evacuate everyone.
By day's end, campers and staff had safely relocated to St. Michael's and All Angels Cathedral in Kelowna.
Remnants of the dock of Camp OAC is seen, after it was burned down by the McDougall Creek wildfire. (Camp OAC)
Dixon expressed his devastation over the camp's destruction, saying years of memories for staff and campers were erased by the flames.
"We're not the fanciest camp [as] we don't have the massive lodges, but the community of OAC is pretty special, welcoming anyone that comes [and] providing kids with a really safe place to be who they want to be."
Climate anxiety among children, youth
According to the B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS), this season has seen more than 1,800 wildfires scorching more than 16,000 square kilometres of land across the province.
Although multiple factors contribute to these fires, scientists concur that climate change plays a significant role.
"The impacts of climate are really felt in the sense that, before, it would have been very rare to have large fire seasons that are as severe as they are today," Jen Baron, a PhD candidate in forest and conservation sciences at the University of British Columbia, said.
Recent studies, like one conducted by Lakehead University in Orillia, Ont., show that among 1,000 participants age 16-25, over half reported feelings of fear, sadness, anxiety, and powerlessness in response to climate change events.
"This doesn't mean we can't talk about serious climate risks and challenges," Meghan Wise, co-ordinator of Climate Hub, a climate change research and advocacy group at UBC, said on Daybreak South.
"With youth, I think it's really important to make sure to spotlight and centre [on] actions and give examples of how the issue is being addressed to uplift community safety and well-being."
'A long process'
Dixon expressed hope for the camp's re-opening, although he anticipates numerous challenges ahead.
"With all the destruction, we're going to be in a long process of when we can get access and how quickly they can make things safe and how quickly we can start healing,'' he said.
Dixon said the camp might have to rely on community support during the rebuilding process.
"Hopefully, out of each adversity comes opportunity. And we can build back a better and stronger camp."