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Police drama in Black Mtn

A heavy police presence swooped down on Kelowna's Black Mountain neighbourhood overnight for what is believed to have been a violent home invasion.

Residents of the area report at least eight marked and two unmarked police cars rushed into the area about 12:45 a.m.

RCMP closed Feedham Road for several hours. It's not yet known if the road has reopened.

Neighbours say officers on the scene stated there is no danger to the public.

It's believed a seriously injured male was found in a home.  

Occupants of the household were seen being questioned by police, and a police canine unit was searching the area.

Castanet will have more details as they become available.

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Season ends on a roll

The Okanagan Roller Derby Association season ends this Saturday at Memorial Arena, with Kelowna's Sun City Sirens taking on the NWO Rollergirls from Chilliwack.

“Both of our house teams have had a great 2015 season; our skaters have had a great time playing against teams from throughout British Columbia, including playing in a tournament in Richmond,” comments Scott Cooper, also known as Billie da Skid, president of the association. 

Roller Derby is the fastest-growing women’s sport, with more than 1,000 women’s leagues in 36 countries.

“One of the great things about roller derby is that anyone and everyone can play,” states Cooper. “Our teams are composed of women of many different skill levels and body shapes. ... Our players ages range from women in their early twenties to late forties.”

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased from your local roller girl or Leo’s Video. There will also be tickets at the door, and children 10 and under are free. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and first whistle blows at 7.

The OKRDA was founded in 2009 and has more than 60 skaters. 

Meter holdouts wooed

Fortis BC is hoping smart meter holdouts might change their minds.

The utility company is continuing to install the controversial meters across the region, with more than 60,000 already in place in the Kelowna area.

The advanced metering infrastructure – as it is officially called – has generated plenty of controversy, with opponents claiming it allows the government to spy on people and that it produces pulses of radiation that can cause health problems.

The company says the science is on its side and the meters are harmless.

“At this time, we’re reaching out to Kelowna-based customers who initially refused an AMI meter when we began installations last fall. There are a few who continue to refuse the meter exchange, and I wanted to share with readers the importance of why these upgrades need to take place,” said Michael Allison, corporate communications advisor with Fortis BC.

“Right now, we’ve installed more than 100,000 meters total, with nearly 60,000 already installed in the Kelowna region. There are 24,000 more meters to go in the Southern Interior.

We’re aiming to have the meter deployment phase of the project wrapped up by early October, after which customers will begin to realize benefits of fewer bill estimates, billing date choice, and better response to outages."

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Summer at Big White

Despite the closure of Highway 33 for part of the weekend due to the Joe Rich wildfire, Big White still enjoyed a successful kickoff to its summer season.

"I’ll never forget the call I got at 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon regarding the Huckleberry Road fire. Mother Nature threw a series of curve-balls, but looking at the big picture, no houses were lost and no individuals were hurt. We will open the chairlift again next weekend and people will enjoy hiking all week at the resort," Big White senior vice-president Michael J. Ballingall said Monday.

Events on the mountain included chairlift hiking to the top of the mountain, an artisan market and a free kids carnival complete with cotton candy, an inflatable obstacle course, face-painting and a bubble station. 

Focus on forests

Scientists from around the world are in Kelowna this week to talk about water quality and availability, forestry and aquatic ecology.

They're taking part in the International Conference on Forests and Water in a Changing Environment at UBC Okanagan.

The conference provides an opportunity for international scientists to gather and share their research and exchange ideas, says conference chair Adam Wei.

The goal is to provide an opportunity for experts who specialize in forest hydrology, eco-hydrology, geomorphology, watershed management, and climate change in forested environments to connect and share their knowledge.

Wei, an earth and environmental sciences professor at UBCO, says this is the fourth-ever conference, and the 2015 focus is all about forest disturbance and hydrological processes in a changing environment.

“Forests play a vital role in sustaining water resources and aquatic ecosystems,” says Wei. “Forest disturbance, from natural events — like wildfire, insect infestation, disease, or even windstorms — and human-caused disturbance including timber harvesting and land conversion, can have a profound effect on hydrologic, geomorphic, and ecologic processes.”

The conference includes a full-day tour that will take participants on a trip past local lakes, through grasslands, and a variety of forest types to the Upper Penticton Creek experimental watersheds. Along the way, they will witness the effects of fire, insects, logging, and other disturbances in the Okanagan Valley. The tour will also stop at the Okanagan River dam, where water supplies and international water agreements will be discussed.

The conference has attracted top researchers from around the world, says Wei, with keynote speakers from Europe, Australia, China, Canada and the United States.

Taken puppy returned

A Kamloops family is relieved to have its puppy back after the dog was taken while they were visiting Kelowna.

RCMP Const. Jesse O’Donaghey says the family left their English Setter "Bailey" in the truck bed of their vehicle while they shopped at Costco on Friday. However, when they returned, they discovered Bailey was gone.

"Witnesses at the scene told the family that an unknown man had taken their dog, and provided a detailed description of the male suspect, who the family recognized as being in the area prior,” said O’Donaghey.

RCMP were called to the scene and did an extensive search of the area, but couldn't find the man or the dog.

The following morning, while on routine patrol, the lead investigator located and questioned a man matching the suspect's description in the area of Highway 97 and Underhill Street.
According to O’Donaghey, the 56-year-old Kelowna man admitted to being at Costco on Friday, and he was subsequently arrested for the alleged theft.

“We learned that the man reportedly observed the puppy in distress, removed the puppy from the back of the vehicle and took the puppy to his residence with the intention of delivering the animal to the SPCA.”

The puppy was reunited with its family, by Const. Wyatt Wright.

"Bailey was obviously a beloved part of their family, (they) were all extremely ecstatic to have him return home," said Wright.

No charges are recommended at this time, however O’Donaghey reminds the public what to do if you witness a dog in distress:

  • Ask nearby stores to page their customers
  • Call the B.C. SPCA animal cruelty hotline at 1-855-6BC-SPCA (1-855-622-7722)
  • Call your local animal control
  • Contact your local police department

"Please don't take matters into your own hands and leave the scene with the animal," he said.

"Police would also like to remind the public to consider registering their pets with permanent identification, such as a microchip or tattoo. Doing so will assist police in confirming the dog's identity, and greatly increase the likelihood the dog will be reunited with its guardians."

Film set to shoot Wednesday

Producers of the feature film Tomato Red will be shooting in Kelowna on Wednesday.

Okanagan Film Commissioner Jon Summerland said the film is produced by Octagon Films of Ireland, which has produced many high-profile television series (Foyle’s War, The Vikings, The Borgias, Penny Dreadful) and feature films (Calvary, Becoming Jane, As If I Am Not There, The Door).

Those on cast for the shoot have not yet been revealed.  

Tomato Red was adapted for the screen by Juanita Wilson from the novel by Daniel Woodrell. It tells the tale of two siblings, Jamalee and Jason Merridew, and their ex-con sidekick Sammy Barlach. 

For Jamalee, her tomato red hair, suitably matching her rage and ambition, their small-town American life just won’t do. Her dreams are made in Hollywood, among tuxedos and palm trees. Jason, blessed with drop-dead good looks, is the local object of female obsession and their ticket out of town. 

However, the hills and hollows of the Ozarks can be a dangerous place. Sammy is meant to be the muscle Jamalee and Jason need to get out, but not even he can protect them from everything.

“We are very pleased to have such a prestigious production company ... choose the Okanagan as a location for Tomato Red," said Summerland. "It will profile our region and location internationally.”

Last alerts lifted

Joe Rich residents can breathe a sigh of relief.

All remaining evacuation alerts for the area have been rescinded, the regional district's Emergency Operation Centre reports.

None of the 28 properties in the Highway 33 and Huckleberry Road area remain under evacuation alert, however fire suppression work will continue in the area over the next several days.

The fire, which broke out Friday afternoon, scorched a 55-hectare area, prompting evacuations over the weekend.

The EOC says residents can expect to see ongoing fire suppression efforts and firefighters throughout the area as they work to fully extinguish the blaze, which could take a week or longer. 

The public is asked to stay out of the way and not drive over hose lines laid across roads or driveways, while yielding to emergency vehicles in the neighbourhood.

View a gallery of our readers' best fire photos here

Fireworks suspect in blaze

UPDATE 12:30 p.m.

The manager of a strata complex on Davie Road says fireworks were being shot off in the neighbourhood much of Sunday night.

While there is not yet any conclusive evidence the fireworks started a fire that burned a cedar hedgerow and damaged units in the building, police are investigating the matter.

Michael O'Grady says he heard fireworks throughout the night.

"They were going off close by, it was quite loud," he said Monday.

"It was right outside my backyard. I heard noises and saw the fire was just getting started. I went to get my wife and kids out of the house and was going to try to put it out with a garden hose, but by then the cedar hedges were candling."

O'Grady says the fire also destroyed fencing along three units of the complex, residents' gardens and even melted the frames of some of his windows, cracking one of the panes. A neighbour's shed was also burned.

One neighbour saw a young male running away from the scene.

Police and fire investigators have been talking to the residents and gathering evidence.

RCMP have yet to provide any information on the incident.


A fire in bushes at the corner of Davie Road and Highway 33 sent spectacular flames into the sky overnight.

Few details are yet available, but neighbours report the fire started about 11:15 p.m. in Rutland.

Residents suspect it may have been arson, as the blaze was restricted to the large hedges, but that has not been confirmed with police or the fire department.

Castanet will have more information as it becomes available.

Send your photos and video to [email protected]


Lifesavers honoured

Four lifesavers at Kelowna's H2O Centre have been awarded for their actions.

Scott Fellhauer, Alyssa Christie, Marte Volk and Braeden Wallace received commendations from the Lifesaving Society at its annual awards banquet in Vancouver.

The group sprang into actions when Sharon Flanagan went into cardiac arrest and collapsed during a zumba class at the aquatic and fitness centre in November.

“I don’t remember anything,” says Flanagan. “I looked up at the clock near the end of the class and thought, I am just going to grab my stuff before I pick up my daughter from child minding, and the next thing I knew I was waking up in Kelowna General Hospital."

The YMCA staff members rushed to Flanagan's aid. Fellhauer immediately began CPR, while the others administered oxygen and brought out the centre's automated external defibrillator.  

“The AED prompted us to shock right away,” said Fellhauer, a YMCA lifeguard of more than six years. “We continued to do CPR for a while and the AED prompted us to shock again.”

After several ups and downs, Flanagan's heart eventually returned to its normal rhythm and she started to breathe on her own again. She was taken to hospital by ambulance.

“It is really emotional,” said Sharon with tears in her eyes. “If it weren’t for this really awesome group of people, I wouldn’t be here. I don’t think there is anything I could possibly say or do to ever repay them.... It is a scary situation to hear a doctor say that if I didn’t have an AED on me within 10 minutes, that would have been it.”

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the use of CPR and AEDs during the early stages of a cardiac arrest improves survival rates by 75 per cent. 

Learn more about related courses offered at the Kelowna Family YMCA and H2O Adventure + Fitness Centre including CPR, First Aid and AED Responder at ymcaokanagan.ca or call 250-491-9622. 

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