Painting auction to raise funds for Okanagan fire victims

If the winds had shifted only slightly this past July, the wildfires burning north of Kelowna would have spread to Ex Nihilo Vineyards Okanagan.

Decoa Harder, who owns and runs the winery with her husband Jeff, knows how close her winery came to being burned to the ground.

“Honestly, had the winds been blowing in a slightly different direction our vineyards and winery would have been destroyed,” she said.

It was much the same two years ago when the Harders watched wildfires burning across Okanagan Lake from Ex Nihilo.

“Summer fires are becoming more and more the norm,” Decoa Harder said.

To give back to the community, Ex Nihilo — Latin for “out of nothing” — is auctioning off an original watercolour painting by Alex Fong, an artist living in the Okanagan. Called Any Way the Wind Blows, the $5,500 painting will be unveiled at the winery’s Harvest Dinner on Saturday.

All proceeds raised by the sealed bid auction go to the B.C. Fires Appeal of the Canadian Red Cross.

Deadline for bids is Saturday, Nov. 12. In addition to the original, limited edition prints of Fong’s painting will be available at $600 each.

Tickets for Harvest Dinner are $195 plus GST.

B.C. recorded its worst fire season in history this summer. The province spent $548 million — nearly nine times the budgeted $62 million — battling 1,200 wildfires which burned 1.2 million hectares. It far surpasses the previous record of $382 million spent fighting fires in 2009.

“The fires of 2017 definitely had a devastating effect on our neighbours and throughout B.C.,” Harder said by phone.

The night of Saturday, July 15 was particularly horrific for Ex Nihilo and its neighbours. On an otherwise beautiful summer night in the Okanagan, Barney Bentall was scheduled to perform at the winery. An hour before the concert was about to start, Harder starting hearing sirens and seeing smoke.

“Barney had to stop playing because the noise from water bombers and fire-retardant planes drowned him out,” she said.

The close call made the Harders realize that they needed to help other victims of the fires. They also realized the fire fund needed to be built up to help victims of future summer fires.

The Harders are also intimately connected to the wildfires burning in Northern California.

Jeff’s brother James and his wife Colleen own and operate James Cole Winery in the Napa Valley.

Source:: Vancouver Sun – Entertainment

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