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'Fire on the Mountain' concert helps 2003 wildfire victims

Floods, famine, fire and drought — when disaster strikes at home and around the world, Canadians are ready to help. For musicians and actors, helping often means organizing large relief concerts. These shows are great entertainment and have raised millions of dollars. But at times, critics have questioned the long-term benefit of these extravaganzas. CBC Archives looks back at some of Canada's disaster relief concerts.

"Obviously there's a great need on a million levels," explains Keith Glass of the band Prairie Oyster. He's one of many musicians taking part in the Fire on the Mountain concert, a benefit to aid victims of the 2003 wildfires that ravaged the B.C. Interior, leaving many people homeless. This CBC Television news report shows scenes from the concert and talks to concert attendees - including one woman who lost her home in the fire. 
• More than 700 fast-moving wildfires hit southern British Columbia during the summer of 2003, forcing more than 50,000 people to evacuate their homes. Among the worst hit areas were Kelowna - where a third of the city had to flee and about 240 homes were destroyed - and the village of Louis Creek (north of Kamloops). Louis Creek was "practically erased," according to a 2003 Winnipeg Free Press article.

• The Fire on the Mountain concert took place Sept. 27, 2003, in Kamloops, B.C.
• Performers included Matthew Good, Tracey Brown, Chantal Kreviazuk, Natalie McMaster, Michelle Wright, the Moffats and Prairie Oyster.
• Approximately 20,000 people attended. There was no admission fee, but there was a suggested $20 donation per person or $50 per family. Through those donations the concert raised over $80,000.

• People who lost their homes in the fires were invited as special guests and were seated in a 100-seat VIP section near the front of the stage. Firefighters and Canadian soldiers were also seated in the VIP section.

• Fire victims attending the concert were extremely moved by the effort and generosity. In a 2003 Vancouver Province article, a concert attendee who lost his home said of the concert: "I've never experienced anything as emotional as this." He was also impressed that he got to meet one of his favourite musicians after the show. "Never in my wildest imagination did I think I'd get to hug Natalie McMaster."

• In the same article, performer Natalie McMaster discussed what an emotional experience it was to take part in the show. "It's so amazing to talk to people who've been right there in the midst of the tragedy. They take you into their world. I'm just reminded all day of why we're here."

• The concert was just one of many B.C. fundraising efforts to help the fire victims. According to a 2003 Vancouver Sun article, "millions of dollars have been raised in private and corporate donation to help those whose lives have been turned upside down by fires in and around Kelowna and Kamloops. Everyone from General Motors to Cher to kids with lemonade stands have pitched in to help." (Singer Cher donated $5,000 to the Salvation Army for fire relief after her August 2003 concert in British Columbia.)

• Other Canadian disaster relief concerts include:
- The Westray Mining Disaster Concert, Halifax, May 1992, to help families of those killed in the Westray disaster
- The Watershed Festival, Walkerton, Ont., September 2000, to help the town after its tainted water crisis
- The Pay it Forward II concert, St. John's, Nfld., March 2003, to help victims of a severe flood in Badger, Nfld.
- The Peterborough Flood Relief Concert, Peterborough, Ont., August 2004, to aid victims of the Peterborough flood
Medium: Television
Program: Saturday Report
Broadcast Date: Sept. 27, 2003
Guests: Lynn Chrystal, Keith Glass, Herman Roth
Host: Carole MacNeil
Reporter: Bonnie Allen
Duration: 2:43

Last updated: August 6, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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