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VIDEO: A bittersweet return to Traders Cove

Ken Black is one of the lucky ones in Traders Cove.

Now that he and his neighbours are free to return to their community, he's back and working to make it livable again.

But his house is surrounded by the charred remains of his neighbours' homes.

Black is filled with emotion as he expresses his gratitude to the firefighters who saved his house.

"It's tough to go through," he said, choking back tears.

He pointed out the burned house across the street that belonged to a firefighter.

"He was probably one of the guys who was here between the houses, saving my house," he said.

"It's just amazing."

<who>Photo credit: NowMedia </who>

Black's house has wooden siding and decks, yet somehow was spared in the firestorm.

"There's a big job ahead, and we just feel terrible about their losses," said West Kelowna City Manager Paul Gipps.

Gipps was involved in the decision to finally allow many residents of the communities hardest hit by the McDougall Creek fire full access to their neighbourhoods again.

"We're going to do everything we can to get them moving forward," said Gipps.

He is encouraging people who have suffered losses in the fire to visit the Resiliency Centre at 403-3031 Louie Drive in West Kelowna.

<who>Photo credit: NowMedia </who> Paul Gipps

"We have staff there," he said.

"Their whole job is to help people get through this next process, help them with their insurance, their permits, their approvals, everything they need to get this moving."

The decision to reopen the impacted neighbourhoods along Westside Road this week came just as a group of homeowners began to complain that they were waiting too long to get back in.

"We don't know why it's not safe," Bear Creek Road resident Lara MacDonald told KelownaNow Wednesday.

"And we're getting insider information to the contrary," she said.

<who> Photo Credit: NowMedia

Gipps said he understands the frustration.

"They've been out of their homes a long time, a lot of uncertainty," he acknowledged. "I totally respect that."

But he said the Emergency Operations Centre always remained motivated to get people back in as early as possible.

"There's a process involved. Lifting orders, making sure it's safe and turning it back to the community."

<who>Photo credit: NowMedia </who>

Amid all of the destruction, there are things to feel good about.

Black spoke to us on his back deck with some beautiful tropical plants that are alive and healthy, apparently someone with one of the fire departments had kept them watered for the past four weeks.

"I thought I was coming home to dead plants," he said. "I was so happy."

<who>Photo credit: NowMedia </who> Ken Black

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