Tilman Hainle lost his boyhood home in the vicious wildfire that swept down a mountainside near this lakeside Okanagan community Sunday, but Canada lost a piece of history.
The house where Hainle grew up sat abandoned on a former vineyard Hainle had worked for 40 years, the result of a decision to sell the property to a developer last May.
(Pictured is Hainle Winery in Peachland.)
It was also the property where Canada’s first commercially released icewine was created in 1978. Hainle was a teenager when he and his father collaborated on the first of what would become the signature Canadian product.
“It’s a time for mixed emotions,” Hainle said in a sober interview Monday, hours after officials confirmed the house and three other homes were destroyed by the blaze.
“It certainly has a lot of significance, not just in terms of our history but it’s a significant piece of Canadian wine history as well.”
Hainle, 53, said his parents purchased the property in the early 1970s and became among the first in the area to plant European grapes. The creation of the icewine was a product of a father-son experiment.
“We didn’t realize at the time it was so significant,” he said.
Hainle has spent decades in the wine business, with the family vineyard expanding to a surrounding property over the years.
In 2002, the Hainle Vineyard Estate Winery was sold to another operator, while Hainle downsized to the original family homestead and operated a winery and bed and breakfast as the Working Horse Winery, so-named because of the horses he used to help with the work.
Hainle, who now lives on Vancouver Island and is a global winery consultant, said Monday his family was always aware there were fire hazards around the property because it’s an arid part of the province and the vineyard was up against the woods.
“It’s a very fortunate thing that we weren’t operating and had guests on the property or had to worry about getting the horses out in such a hurry like some of the neighbours did.”
The strong winds that sent the fire barrelling toward this lakefront community proved too much for firefighters attempting to keep the blaze away from homes, with gusts of wind acting like flame throwers and destroying four houses.
The fire, which started Sunday near Peachland and moved three kilometres in a little more than an hour, continued to send thick clouds of white smoke over the community Monday, with more than 1,500 residents remaining under an evacuation order.
— The Canadian Press