Sunday, August 2nd31.8°C

Dilworth balloon landing

For the second time in a matter of months, residents on Dilworth Mountain were surprised to see a hot air balloon land mere metres from their homes.

While the balloon landed safely in the Cassiar area of Dilworth and no one was injured, it was still a surprise to local residents.

“This balloon landed in the middle of a street…narrowly missing a house and hitting a tree or two,” says Tom Lang.  “The crew and the great neighbours bounced the basket into the middle of the street, where they tipped the basket and the pilot bailed out.”

Lang says the pilot told witnesses, "I landed exactly where I wanted to.”

Shayla Ketchell says neighbours jumped into action and help deflate the balloon.

The pilot is reportedly a local recreational pilot who was able to make a successful and safe landing where the winds took him.


Fire at Asia envoy's parents

UPDATE: 6:30 a.m.

The Kelowna Fire Department says Saturday evening's fire was at a home on the 1600 block of Saucier Road.

Firefighters arrived to find the attached two-car garage fully involved.

Two occupants were home at the time, and both got out unharmed. The garage and two vehicles inside were destroyed, but fire crews prevented the fire from spreading to the house.

It is believed the home is owned by Dick Stewart, father of former B.C. cabinet minister and Westside-Kelowna MLA, proprietor of Quails' Gate Winery and B.C.'s special representative in Asia.

Three fire engines, a rescue truck, safety and command vehicles, along with RCMP and BC Ambulance Service responded, with a total of 16 fire personnel at the scene.

The cause of the fire is unknown, but not considered suspicious, and an investigation is pending.


UPDATE: 9:36 p.m.

According to Kelowna Fire Platoon Captain Steve Wallach, the fire was contained to the garage and is now fully out.

The occupants of the home are also doing fine.

UPDATE: 9:17 p.m.

According to a neighbour, a person was driving by around 8:15 p.m. and saw the smoke and banged on the door of the home.

They quickly got the elderly couple who lives there out.

The Kelowna Fire Department, RCMP and BC Ambulance are on scene.

It appears the fire was mainly confined to the garage, but there is no official confirmation as yet.

Castanet will provide more details as they come available.

Castanet is currently receiving reports of a house fire on Takla Road near Saucier Road in Kelowna.

A reporter is headed to the scene.

We will bring you more information, as it comes available.

CRIS assists youth

There were plenty of activities on display yesterday at Sutherland Park, for the Community Recreational Initiatives Society’s third annual Youth Challenge.

CRIS is a non-profit group that uses adaptive equipment to allow people with disabilities to enjoy nature in the Okanagan.

The Youth Challenge involved scavenger hunts, kayaking, biking and hiking for disabled youth in the Okanagan.

“We’re empowering youth with disabilities and we unite as a team and break down those barriers,” said Clare Murphy, a CRIS worker at the event.

Clayton March began using the services provided by CRIS when it first was developed in 2001. He now sits on the board of directors.

“CRIS has had a huge impact on my life,” said March. “It’s allowed me to do a ton of things that I wouldn’t have gotten to do otherwise.”

These things include hiking in Kananaskis, a trip to Broken Group Islands and a hiking trip coming up in the fall at Robson Mountain.

“It’s allowed me to meet tons of amazing people and make a lot of great friends,” March said. “It’s allowed me to gain a lot of skills and self confidence.”

Many people in the Okanagan use the services provided by the society.

“Some of our participants come out on a regular basis, say weekly, and some might come out once every couple of years,” said Ashton Butler, another employee with CRIS.

The organization only has three full time employees, and a few summer student employees.

“Volunteers are the backbone of our organization, we would not be able to do this without the volunteers we get out on trips,” said Murphy.


Fortis phone scam

A new phone scam going on throughout British Columbia is hitting Kelowna particularly hard.

The scam involves someone calling a FortisBC customer, and threatening to turn their power off if they don't make a payment.

The person asks the customer to make a payment in an “unconventional way” such as to a prepaid credit card, or in some cases, they offer to come by the house and collect in person.

“It’s savvy enough that customers we wouldn’t expect are calling us and asking us if this is for real,” said Nicole Bogdanovic, with FortisBC.

In some cases the scammers appear to use information from the customer’s account, but Bogdanovic said they don’t believe the information is coming from FortisBC.

“In at least one instance, a customer was contacted using a number we don’t even have on file,” Bogdanovic said.

Reports of the phone scam are coming from all over B.C. but Bogdanovic said Kelowna has been targeted specifically.

“We probably get about 2 to 3 calls a day from concerned customers, within central Okanagan and south Okanagan,” Bogdanovic said.

Fortis urges customers with any concerns to call them using a phone number listed on their website.

“This is not how FortisBC, or any utility does business,” Bogdanovic said. “Service disruption would be a last resort.”

Boil-water notice

Update: July, 31

The boil-water notice for customers on the Beaver Lake water system has been downgraded to a water quality advisory.

According to Interior Health, recent testing and monitoring has shown water quality has improved and disinfection (chlorine) levels have recovered.

Interior Health recommends that children, the elderly, people with weakened immune systems and anyone seeking additional protection drink boiled water or a safe alternative until further notice.

Turbidity (water clarity) fluctuates on the Beaver Lake source and times may exceed 1 NTU.

A boil-water notice has been issued in Lake Country for customers on the Beaver Lake water system.

The District of Lake Country and Interior Health issued the notice due to a malfunction on the automatic chlorination system. This has resulted in a loss of disinfection.

It is recommended that all customers in the affected area drink boiled water or a safe alternative. 

Until further notice, water intended for the following uses should be boiled for one minute:

  • drinking
  • washing fruits and vegetables
  • making beverages or ice
  • brushing teeth

Boiled water should then be refrigerated in a clean, covered container.  Customers could also choose to use bottled or distilled water.

Crews are flushing the system and collecting additional water samples to verify water quality. A notification will be issued when water quality has improved, utility Supt. Mike Mitchell said in a media release.

If you have questions, contact the municipality at 250-766-6677 or, or Interior Health at 250-549-5714 or

Topless sunbathing OK?

The story of a young woman told to cover up by RCMP after she was sunbathing topless on a local beach touched a nerve with many Castanet viewers.

More than 100 people commented on the story "Going topless not a crime" – with some heated debate both for and against woman baring it all on Okanagan beaches.

While there is no municipal bylaw in Kelowna against going topless, police claim they may ask women to cover up as a courtesy to families if people feel uncomfortable.

In a recent poll by Castanet, just over 62 per cent of more than 3,500 viewers voted to "live and let live" when it comes to topless sunbathing.

Castanet hit the beach to find out what those who were enjoying the sun and sand thought.

Watch here.

Fortis rates rise again

Electricity will cost more for Okanagan customers of FortisBC, starting Saturday.

Fortis has completed its annual rate review with the B.C. Utilities Commission and received approval for an increase of 1.6 per cent.

Fortis said in a statement the increase is necessary to allow upgrades and improvements to the electrical system, and to purchase added capacity.

“Since 2004, FortisBC has invested over $1 billion in safety and reliability upgrades, so this is a continuation of that,” said Michael Allison, manager of corporate communications for the utility. “It’s essentially infrastructure, capacity purchase agreements and things to ensure, long term, our customers’ service integrity is maintained.”

The additional capacity is needed to accommodate peak usage in winter, according to Allison.

He said the infrastructure the increase pays for does not include smart meters.

“Advanced meters are actually going to pay for themselves,” he said.

Allison said the $51-million program will pay for itself by eliminating the need for employees to go door to door to check meters, and by helping to locate outages quickly and easily.

In addition to the new increase, a 3.5 per cent interim increase from Jan. 1 was made permanent.

Having the two increases within one year is unusual, but Allison said that's because Fortis and the BCUC recently changed their rate-making structure.

“Typically, we would be able to wrap up all the rates in the fall of 2014 and have that ready for Jan. 1,” Allison said. “Since we were working with the B.C. Utilities Commission on this regulatory structure, that was delayed and so an interim rate change was put in.”

Returning creek to nature

The federal government will kick in up to $249,000 toward restoration of Mission Creek to a more natural flow.

Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan made the announcement on the Mission Creek Greenway Friday morning. It was the latest in a series of funding announcements by Cannan this week ahead of an anticipated election call on the weekend.

The federal funding was made possible through the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program.

The city will receive funds on a matching basis, however, it must raise a similar amount first, through private, non-government means.

Agriculture and environment manager Todd Cashin said the city has already raised more than half the $249,000.

The federal grant was applied for by the Central Okanagan Land Trust.

Cashin said the city will use the funds to begin work on altering the flow of the lower sections of Mission Creek.

Mayor Colin Basran said the city hopes to begin work in the fall.

"Work will include setting back the dykes to widen the creek, re-establishing the flood plain, restoring the creek bank and planting riparian vegetation, creating habitat for species at risk, improving drainage for agricultural land," said Basran.

"We will continue to work with stakeholders to secure funding, acquire property, relocate and upgrade the dyke along Mission Creek."

Back in the 1950s, sections of the creek were channelized and diked to prevent flooding. It resulted in a loss of 80 per cent of its spawning habitat and more than 25 per cent of its length.

At one time, between Okanagan Lake and Casorso Bridge, Mission Creek was 60 to 80 metres wide and about 30 kilometres long.

The creek now averages 31 metres in width and is about 11 kilometres in length.

Grill thrills await

Tree Brewing was taken over by chefs Thursday afternoon to hype the upcoming the Ktown Showdown barbecue competition.

The competition takes place Aug. 22 and pits 10 local chefs against each other for barbecue bragging rights. All chefs will have to use the same cut of meat, which was revealed Thursday as pulled-pork. Now, they can get to work on their recipes.

Last year’s champion, Justin Best, represents the new BNA Brewing Co. & Eatery, after winning with Hotel Eldorado last year. He demo'd his own take on a Chinese barbecue pork pastry on Thursday, but said he would be switching it up for the actual competition.

Best said the chef community in Kelowna is close, and, after working all over Canada, he has no plans to leave.

Chef Beth Ross represented the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort. She's lived in Kelowna for nine months and thinks events like the Ktown Showdown are great to bring local chefs together.

“We’ll chit-chat with the other chefs and build connections that way – and build friendships and talk about the business,” Ross said. “It’s good to kind of know who’s out there, because there’s always new restaurants opening up.”

The competition takes place at the Kelowna Curling Club. Each chef’s dish will be paired with a craft beer from B.C. There will also be a car show and live music.

Parking lot shaming

Poor parker beware. Kelowna residents aren't above a little parking lot shaming.

The Facebook group Sh*t Parkers of Kelowna, which posts submitted pictures of bad and inconsiderate parking jobs, has seen increased activity so far this summer. There were 21 posts in July and 31 in June, compared to the mid-teens in spring.

One Castanet reader sent in a picture of a lime green Dodge Challenger double-parked in the Home Depot parking lot on Wednesday.

“Is this how people park in Kelowna? Really?” he wrote.

Another Kelowna resident posted a picture to Facebook on Thursday of a vehicle parked outside his apartment building. The picture shows a red pickup that parked within a hair's breadth of the photographer's Mustang. He had some choice words for the driver of the pickup on the post that can’t be repeated here.

Meanwhile, the Facebook page has 5,796 likes as of July 30. Comments on the page range from hostile to humourous.

“I wish every parking lot had a guy with a forklift to deal with cars like this and keep the lot neat and tidy,” one group member wrote.

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