Tuesday, September 23rd14.2°C

Smoke forces evacuation

Residents were evacuated from their apartment building at 1475 Bertram Street Monday afternoon after the second floor filled with smoke.

Platoon Captain Steve Wallick says crews first responded with one unit but on the way to the scene the call was upgraded and additional fire trucks were deployed.

“Once on scene there was smoke on the second and third floor, the building was evacuated and fire fighters did an extensive search and discovered that a heater had failed.”

While there was no visible flame, residents claim there was thick smoke throughout the building which is mostly occupied by seniors.

Fire crews remained on scene to determine what type of space heater malfunctioned. Once an investigation is complete residents will be allowed back in the building.

Bertram Street starting at Bernard Avenue was partially blocked while crews were on scene.


Four vehicle crash kills bear

A four vehicle collision on Highway 97 at the north end of Kelowna has claimed the life of a bear.

According to police a four vehicle crash was reported on the highway at Duck Lake shortly before 8:30 Sunday evening.

A large black bear had been struck by four separate vehicles and was found dead at the scene.

None of the occupants of any of the vehicles were hurt.

All four vehicles sustained various degrees of damage.

Power restored

Update: 3 p.m.

Power is restored to 1,156 FortisBC customers in Kelowna. Crews are still working to restore power to 297 customers from Gordon to Burtch, Kelglen, Centennial and Alta Vista.

Over 1400 FortisBC customers are in the dark in Kelowna after the power went out just after 1 p.m.

According to a FortisBC representative, crews are on site at a distribution feeder trying to determine the cause of the outage, but it is unclear at this time what caused the issue.

Those living north of Harvey and east of Gordon are affected.

In an email to Castanet, a resident living along Kelglen Crescent claims to have heard a loud bang prior to the power going out.

FortisBC does not have a record of a motor vehicle incident near the distribution feeder, but are investigating.

It's not known when the power will be restored.


Shopping cart fire

Video by Matty Dee

A shopping cart was set on fire Sunday in downtown Kelowna.

The cart was parked behind the Metro Church on Water Street when the incident took place around 2:40 p.m.

The small blaze was quickly put out by the responding fire crew.

No one was injured and no other property was destroyed.


Joe Rich wildfire contained

11:30 a.m.

The Joe Rich fire has grown to 6.2 hectares in size, but it's now 100 per cent contained, according to crew members on scene with the fire department in Joe Rich.

The BC Wildfire branch has confirmed there is a 100 per cent hose lay around the fire, and it is 25 per cent hand guarded -- the rest is expected to be completed today.

There are currently 12 fire department personnel on site, including four members from Wildfire BC. An additional 12 members are on route today.

A cause for the fire has not been confirmed, but its believed to be human caused at this point.






7:30 a.m. update:

Fire crews on site in Joe Rich Monday morning say the fire is now 100 per cent contained.

No structures were damaged.

6:15 a.m. update:

Residents near the fire say it was very calm over night.

There were a few hot spots, but they did not report any candling.

We will have an update once crews assess the fire this morning (Monday). At last report the fire was 50 per cent contained.

8:30 p.m. update:

Kelsey Winter with BC Wildfire Management said the fire is currently estimated at five hectares in size and is holding well.

There are 19 wildfire management personnel on site along with 22 firefighters from the Joe Rich and Ellison fire departments.

The fire is currently 50 per cent contained. 

Two houses were on evacuation alert, but no evacuation orders were carried out.

5 p.m. update:

A forestry initial attack is now working the ground along with firefighters from Joe Rich and Kelowna. There are five trucks on scene, two helicopters and two fixed wing aircraft.

Forestry reports the fire is about 40 per cent contained. The crews have managed to knock the flames down and they are gaining the upper hand.

"The fire is right behind my parents house. The bomber has been so low that things have fallen over in the house when it flies over. We have been watching tanker trucks go back and forth. Too close for comfort!," says Tanya Chartrand.

Fire Information officer with the Kamloops Fire Centre says the fire is about four hectares in size. They have 19 personnel on location working with local firefighters.

Two homes are still on evacuation alert, but the fire is now burning away from the properties.

Residents are putting sprinklers on top of their homes to prevent sparks from igniting their houses.

2:40 p.m.: Crews are battling a wildfire in Joe Rich.

The blaze started at around 2 p.m., it is about 100 metres from the nearest home.

RCMP report two homes are on evacuation alert. 

Forestry has been alerted and air support has already started to action the fire.

It is burning in the hills above the 8000 block of Sun Valley Road.

More details to follow.

Send photos and video to [email protected]


Rally for recovery day

Supporters of Rally for Recovery day marched through downtown Kelowna Sunday afternoon to raise awareness of the issues surrounding drug and alcohol addiction.

This was the second annual Rally for Recovery day in Kelowna. It was a combined effort between Kelowna and Vernon.

About 50 people filled Stuart Park after 12 p.m. to hear speakers such as Coun Mohini Singh and Vernon Mayor Rob Sawatsky speak before the march through downtown took place. Many more were expected throughout the day.

Doug Mackenzie is the owner of Options Okanagan Treatment Centre. He said Rally for Recovery is about reducing the stigma surrounding addiction and recovery. 

"It's all about not being so anonymous anymore," he said. "Everyone has an idea of what addiction looks like on people; a lot of it is people that are down and out, living on the streets and in poverty. But, the truth of it is that most people who are addicted are in the workforce and in business."

Mackenzie said that there are tons of people that one might interact with on a daily basis and not know they're in recovery. This is all about normalizing the recovery process and breaking down the stereotypes.

"It takes that whole group of people to start showing their faces so others can know, this is what recovery looks like," he said.

Dawn Kuehn is the organizer of Rally for Recovery in Kelowna. She has not used drugs or alcohol in more than 16 years and is now a family lawyer in Kelowna with her own practice.

"I went on a yoga retreat with one of the founders from Vancouver. I live in Kelowna so it just made sense to have a recovery day in Kelowna," she said. "A lot of people in recovery, they're still hesitant about coming forward and being open about their recovery. That's part of the stigma we're trying to break."

Kuehn hopes Recovery Day will continue to grow in popularity in Canada like it has in the US, where they have had a recovery awareness month for more than 20 years.

Last year in Philadelphia she said more than 20,000 people joined in the march. 

"Being in recovery is not a weakness, it's a strength to admit you have a problem. By building awareness we might encourage other people to admit they have a problem and to seek help and realize that recovery is possible - we're the evidence."

Dale Disimone has been in recovery for three years and says his whole life has turned around. 

Now he plays in a band and wants to give back by raising awareness. 

"Some people aren't aware of the disease factor of it, some people think it's a choice," he said. "I just like to see the change in people. Get clean and do whatever it takes - everything good, that's what recovery stands for, for me."

Fish festival educates kids

Hundreds of people came out for the Kokanee salmon festival at Mission Creek Park on Sunday. 

The festival has been running for nearly 20 years and celebrates the Kokanee salmon as they spawn upriver. 

The spawning season runs from September into October. During this time more than 10,000 fish will head up Mission Creek. 

Leslie Finley is a park interpreter with the Regional District of the Central Okanagan and helped organize festival. 

She said the salmon festival is about celebrating the return of Kokanee salmon and educating the public on protecting the Okanagan watershed and the local environment. 

"This is one of the biggest festivals we've held in years," she said. "It's really important because some kids don't necessarily get a chance to come with their schools or their parents, but there's a festival it really draws out the kids who don't frequent the park already."

"Really the celebration is trying to spark an interest in the kids and hopefully get them to value what we have here in our parks."

Joanne Swain has been a part of the festival since it began. 

"I think the kids have to know what nature is all about and what happens in nature," she said. "I used to teach in West Kelowna and I brought my kids down here to see the spawning even before this was a park."

Organizers expected more than 3,000 people to attend the festival which ran from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. 

Twenty information booths and more than 50 volunteers were on hand to make the festival a reality. 

At the Central Okanagan Search and Rescue booth, a camera had been placed underwater and people could view the fish as they swam by. 

Other attractions included a giant nylon salmon for children to crawl into. Inside they were treated to a puppet show. 




Easter Seal camp gets makeover

It was a million dollar makeover that left the recipients in tears.

The Easter Seals Camp Winfield has been renovated in a project that was planned for over a year, but kept secret from the Easter Seals organization until today.

From building and painting new picnic tables to landscaping and major renovation work on buildings and equipment, 285 volunteers and 135 companies came together to spruce up the camp.

And it was all the brainchild of local resident Rob Ellis.

"Unbelievable. More than I could have ever wished for, for the kids," said Nirm Blatchford, director of development for Easter Seals camps.

She and other officials were in tears as a special project was unveiled at the end of the day. A memorial pavilion in honour of children who have passed away will serve as a place of reflection for families, other campers and camp staff.

Stephen Miller, president and CEO of Easter Seals and the Lion's Society, says he only learned of the project this morning. Organizers had asked him and Blatchford months ago to keep this weekend free but they didn't know why.

"They've been working on this for a whole year and only this past Wednesday did they start moving stuff in," said Miller. "It totally took us by surprise. I only learned about it four hours ago. It's an incredible experience. It's a once in a lifetime thing. It's just amazing what they've done, that they took on an extreme makeover for this whole camp. It's the greatest surprise I have ever received."

The upgrade is far more extensive than anything the camp has seen in the past.  "As a charity we really look for every dollar we can to pay for the services," said Miller. "If we have money left over then we look at fixing things up. Normally every year we'll come up with a list of 15 or 20 items." 

Usually he says repairs are small, such as painting fences or patching broken concrete. "But this is a wish list like no one has ever seen before. It's a list of 220 items that have been done, and huge projects."

Originally the caretakers had asked organizer Rob Ellis to consider helping them with a few small upgrade projects. He said he'd get his ball team together and see what they could do. They had no inkling he would take their idea much further.

"This is going to be a million dollar project when we're done, very easily," said Akbal Mund, in charge of the volunteer base. He also hopes it inspires other community groups.

"This is a ball team. Twelve people on a ball team who decided to do something for the community," added Mund. "We thought about it and said, if we can do it how can we inspire other teams to look in their communities."

Mund says the projects were wide-ranging. "There's a new amphitheatre in the back, new roofing on the cabins, new roads have been put in, new furniture in the office, new computer equipment, new washers, dryers, fridges.  It's amazing how much product was donated."

Mund says volunteers also built a fire break with irrigation behind the heavily treed camp. "So if there was a fire there would be a 2 to 3 hour break for it to reach the buildings."

"To have the community come forward and step up and do all this, it's amazing. It just blows your mind," says Mund. While some preparation was done ahead of time the bulk of the work was completed in one day.

Camp Winfield is one of three Easter Seals Camps in BC. Each year they host more than 900 children and teens with mental or physical disabilities for week-long camps.

Run in Colour raises $75K

The Grant Thornton 5k Run in Colour event raised more than $75,000 for the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation Saturday morning. 

This is the second year of the event which brought out more than 800 runners and 150 volunteers. 

The $75,000 goes towards the new Interior Heart and Surgical Centre, which is currently under construction. 

"It should open next fall," said Chandel Christie, annual programs officer for the KGH Foundation and one of the event organizers. "Grant Thornton coming on board with a $30,000 sponsorship really started us of on a good foot."

"It's a great community effort."

Christie said they chose the run in colour idea because it was a fun way to get families of all ages involved. 

The runners started off dressed mostly in white, but every kilometre of the five-kilometre run, they were doused with a different powdered colour. 

"By the end, they're tye-dyed," she said. 

Fiona Warren came out in her wedding dress for the event. Her husband Trevor said they like to support charities and doing this run was their son's idea. 

"People like to trash their dress nowadays, right?" she said. "We got married three years ago and I've been waiting for a good opportunity to do something fun with it."

This was Dr Mike Purdon's second Run in Colour. He said the run is a great way to raise money for the KGH Foundation. 

"It's a beautiful day, the perfect time of year, it couldn't be better." 

Mother and son team Kellee and Mike Piattelli were doing the run for the first time this year.

"There's two reasons, one, to support Kelowna General Hospital - both my son and I were born in it and plus it's a good opportunity to do a run together," Kellee said. 

Although the event raised $75,000, the number of runners and volunteers was down slightly this year compared to last year, which saw more than 1,000 runners, 250 volunteers and raised over $100,000.

Free bikes for kids

The Kelowna chapter of Bicycles for Humanity is giving away bikes for kids today.

Founded in Kelowna 10 years ago, Bicycles for Humanity is a charity with 50 chapters across the world.

Their goal is to empower people in developing countries by giving them the gift of transportation. A bicycle greatly increases the mobility of an individual or family and can mean the difference between finding food, water or work. 

But today is about giving back to families in Kelowna.

"People drop off bikes they don't want, adult bikes and children's bikes, but it costs too much money to send children's bikes so we only send adult bikes which are the most usable," said Keith Germaine, a volunteer with B4H. "Sometimes a bike is a family car, so a kid's bike doesn't make sense."

The Kelowna chapter focuses on sending bikes to Ghana as Germaine and his wife have established connections there with a former Peace Corps officer. It costs about $12,000 to send a container which can hold between 450 and 480 adult bikes. 

To fit as many bikes as possible, the front wheel is removed. 

They have already sent one container in the spring and they've received so many bikes, they need to send another. 

All the work is done by volunteers and paid for by donations. 

"We've never fallen short (on funds). People are generous, they donate cars," Germaine said. "Just this last year, we got two cars each worth $3,500 and sold them for $3,500 each."

The group is always looking for donations of cash or items for auction, such as cars, to raise funds. All funds go toward transporting the bikes from Kelowna to Africa. 

They will be at the St Charles Garnier Church at 3645 Benvoulin Road until 12 p.m. Saturday. 

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