Wednesday, August 27th14.0°C

Oxygen masks for pets

Pets often become the victims of residential fires, as they sometimes hide in fear as their owners get out safely. 

Fire crews always make their best attempt to save our furry loved ones, but once outside, the lifesaving gear is not always available, until now.

The Okanagan chapter of the Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team (CDART) has bought and donated 40 animal oxygen mask kits for fire halls up and down the Okanagan, from Lake Country to Osoyoos.

On Tuesday the Kelowna Fire Department received their seven kits with open arms.

“We raised about $900 and were able to buy the kits from a non-profit organization in the States that had them manufactured for pet organizations like ours,” explains CDART Operation Section Chief Shari McDowell. “It is just really heartbreaking when they have to deal with an animal that could have survived but didn’t because there wasn’t oxygen available immediately.”

The kit comes with three different sized masks, all with the ability to effectively and safely give oxygen to everything from a kitten to a German Shepherd.

“Their snout goes into the oxygen mask and then you can actually feed them the right amount of oxygen without having to hover over with a child’s mask or do mouth-to-mouth,” explains McDowell. “So it is a fast way to save an animal’s life.”

Deputy Fire Chief Larry Hollier says the masks are crucial tools for their members who more often than not deal with pets in residential fires.

“Right now we will use a paediatric mask or an adult mask and try to make the seal the best we can, but nothing compares to these,” says Hollier. “They will be utilized definitely, anytime we come in contact with an animal in a structure fire.”

The Kelowna Fire Department received seven kits, which means there will be at least three kits at every fire.

The other 33 kits have already been distributed in the Okanagan.

Fortunately the masks have yet to be used in the Okanagan, but have been used effectively around North America in the past year.


Construction hampers business

It’s loud, dirty and somewhat inconvenient; construction on Lakeshore Road has now been underway since May.

For many business owners summertime is their busiest season. But with a torn up road and detour signs, those like Cathy Biagi, owner of Ritchcraft Gallery, business over the past few months has dropped between 30 and 50 per cent compared to years past.

“I think it’s a combination of people getting tired of going through (construction) and not having the tourist traffic,” she says. “They don’t necessarily want to make the effort -- to take the time to read the signs -- to find us, or they just don’t know. Before (tourists) used to in previous summers just wander down from the resorts to grab their coffee, and a lot of my business came from that.”

Down the street at Mission Meats, there hasn’t been much in the way of a change in business, but they’re a destination location. However, owner Sharon Gray says there is some concern over the dust and noise.

“The parking lot is not always wet enough to hold the dust down, and the parking lot is filthy. So we go out there and clean, but then it’s hard to keep things inside clean, but the staff is really good a maintaining that,” says Gray, who is thankful for her loyal customers.

Both business owners and customers alike say the biggest inconvenience is trying to get into the main parking lot in front of the strip mall, where cars line up six to 10 at a time waiting to get in or out.

Another issue concerns pedestrians. While Castanet was on location, three men tried to weave their way through the construction maze as they were unable to find a clear and labelled path.

“It was a little tricky getting around there,” says one of the men. “It would have been nice if there was more signage, or maybe someone to direct you. That would have been great.”

Despite the construction woes, Lakeshore is still a hub of activity and there were plenty of people who are willing to make the trek to support local business.

One man explains that before the construction began he would wash his car at Mission Super Wash almost every week, but was deterred after recently driving home from the wash and finding his vehicle covered in dust.

“I thought 'Oh no, you don’t wash your car to have it dirty again'. But then I thought this guy is a business owner and I am a business owner, this is a nasty situation, so I said I am going to support him and keep coming and washing my car.”

Others tell Castanet that the location of the Lakeshore businesses was very convenient if they were coming from the H2O centre, or if they lived in the area.

Purvez Irani with the City of Kelowna says work is progressing, water mains have been completed, utilities are wrapped up on the north side, and the road is almost ready to be paved.

A completion date for the project is set for the end of November and crews will continue to work six days a week to manage that timeframe.


Bank robbed, evacuated

The Scotiabank branch at Highway 97 and Dilworth has been evacuated.

Employees and customers were hustled out of the bank around 3:15 p.m. Tuesday,  after someone used pepper spray during a robbery.

RCMP have confirmed a lone male suspect entered the bank, got an undisclosed amount of cash then deployed pepper spray before fleeing.

RCMP members and dog patrols are on the scene looking for the suspect.

The suspect remains at large.

The front entrance to the bank has been marked off with yellow police tape as has an area behind the bank.

RCMP have been interviewing witnesses who were inside the bank along with one employee from the adjacent gas station/car wash.

BC Ambulance and Kelowna Fire Department personnel treated those affected by the spray at the scene.

No one required trip to hospital.


Bike lanes not parking lanes

It seems some motorists don't get the concept.

Bike lanes are for bikes and not an extra parking lane.

Kelowna Councillor Robert Hobson, an avid cyclist himself, drove home the point during Monday's City Council meeting.

"I have been cycling everywhere this summer and I am noticing a lot of people parking in the bike lanes. Unfortunately that means the cyclists have to go out into the traffic," says Hobson.

"It just creates a hazard for people that are biking. If you can't go around to the right of them you have to go out into traffic. Cars on the main road are not expecting cyclists to veer out of the bike lane and it just creates a very serious hazard."

Hobson says he notices illegally parked vehicles most predominately around construction areas.

"Recently I have seen it quite a bit on Lakeshore Road when I come into town. Wherever there are additional workers working on a site people will park where they can," says Hobson.

"Yesterday I was biking into my council meeting and just north of Manteo where that new condo project is going, somebody just angle parked with their car sticking out through the bike lane because it was easiest place to park because it was near work I suppose."

Although Hobson admits there are not always signs posted, especially along long stretches of road where bike lanes exist, parking in a bike lane is not legal.

Those motorists, if caught, can be ticketed.

"In most places there is room on the inside of the bike lane but on certain streets sometimes trees or hedges have grown out and there isn't space or people are too lazy to park inside the bike lane and they'll use it as a parking lot."

Hobson says the hazard also extends to pedestrians who may be forced to walk on a portion of the bike lane on streets where there are no sidewalks.

He points to Lakeshore Road as you approach Gyro Beach as an area where pedestrians may have to venture into the main traffic lane because someone has parked a vehicle illegally in a bike lane.

Break and enters numbers up

Residential break and enters are up in the Rutland area and RCMP are prompting residents to ensure homes are locked and secure.

The Kelowna RCMP says they have noticed that this increase in residential break and enters, specifically in the Rutland area, are directly related to home owners not properly securing their residences during the past few months.

“Crimes of opportunity, such as break and enters, and thefts from vehicles always increase during the summer months and this year has been no different,” says RCMP Cst. Clark.

“But, homeowners could help prevent many of these crimes by simply securing their home.”

Clark says that in the last two weeks, 63 per cent of all residential break-ins can be directly attributed to an unlocked or unsecured home with an open window or patio door being the main point of entry.

The RCMP understand that Okanagan summers can be hot but leaving a window or a door open while you're away from your home is exactly what thieves are looking for.

“You wouldn't put a sign on your front lawn telling people that your home is unlocked,” says Superintendent Nick Romanchuk. “But that’s essentially what you’re doing when a window or door is left open or unlocked.”

Thefts from vehicles also continue to be a problem in the area with 55 per cent attributable to unlocked cars and the remainder attributed to valuables left in plain sight.

Wallets and electronics are the usual targets and are often stolen regardless of where they might be hidden in the vehicle.

“Hiding your wallet or your keys inside your vehicle is not an effective means of security as, more often than not, thieves will find it,” adds Supt. Romanchuk.

The RCMP say the financial damage these crimes of opportunity cause can be in the tens of thousands of dollars for a single event, but that damage could very well be avoided completely by simply removing valuables from your vehicle, and locking your home’s windows and doors.

Learning centres offer options

With only one week to go before the start of scheduled classes in the 2014-15 school year, there has been little progress made between the BC Teachers’ Federation and the provincial government.

This has led to some decreased optimism along the picket lines and additional support being offered by some learning centres in the Okanagan.

Evan Orloff is the Vice President of the Central Okanagan Teachers Association, and says teachers are fed up and want to get back in the classroom.

“We want to be back in school. We want the bargaining team from the government to sit down. They say they’re available twenty-four seven, but they actually haven’t been available all summer,” notes Orloff.

“And that’s not bargaining. We need to sit down and we need to get a fair deal.”

The lack of progress made by either side has convinced a few learning centres in Kelowna to begin offering extra help and extended services to those families in need.

Mind Over Learning is a tutoring centre for students with learning disabilities, and they’ve expanded a special program for students affected by the strike, says Astrid Kostaschuk.

“We’re concerned about those kids because we specialize in kids with learning disabilities, ADHD, autism, fetal alcohol syndrome – all of those hardcore learning difficulties,” she explains.

The part time program – expected to last three hours per day – will focus on language and math skills for students in grades 1-12. The program has room for 20 students and will run throughout the duration of the strike, to be looked at on a week-to-week basis.

“We don’t know when this strike will be over, so we don’t want to lock anybody into any obligation, especially a financial one,” notes Kostaschuk.

Willowstone Academy has also opened up extra childcare spaces in anticipation of a prolonged strike that could drag into September.

“We have the space. We have the staff. We love to serve our community. Our hope is that we can help relieve some stress for families in the event that school does not resume in September,” says Heather Sandager, the school’s Admission Advisor who points out they had 12 spots late last week, of which almost half have already been filled.

“We’ve definitely seen a lot more traffic this summer. The last couple weeks before school tends to be chaotic no matter what, but its definitely more traffic than we’ve seen in years past.”

That is also true at Aberdeen Hall Preparatory School, where Chris Grieve says their admissions over the summer have been higher than usual.

“We have enrolled a number of new students at all levels, particularly grade 12,” he says.

“I think students just want to make sure that their year is not disrupted and their university preparations and admissions go as smoothly as possible."

Grieve says that depending on how long the strike lasts, they will consider accepting some late entrants to the school year, but also says he would like to see both sides in the strike reach some common ground.

“We hope they come to an agreement that satisfies both parties and that they do start up school. We want them to settle. I think its just better for everyone if everybody is going to school.”

OK Sun take ALS challenge

It was all for fun and charity.

The BC Junior Football League's Okanagan Sun accepted a challenge put forth by residents of Westwood Retirement Resort in West Kelowna.

The team, in the middle of a week off, took up the challenge Monday amidst a party type atmosphere.

A portion of Elliott Road in front of the retirement home was closed down and a dunk tank was erected in the middle of the street.

Visitors were invited to make a donation to ALS in exchange for a chance to dunk members of the team.

Following the event, an impromptu team picture gave staff members on the balcony above a chance to douse the team one last time.

Sun receiver Thomas Huber then challenged the UBCO Heat women's basketball and soccer teams.

Huber says he issued the challenge because he knows many of the players. While Huber did not find himself in the dunk tank, a resident at Westwood decided to issue a personal challenge to him.

Huber, the UBCO women's basketball and soccer teams are on the clock. They have 24 hours to take the challenge.

Between the dunk tank and a barbeque, more than $1,100 was raised for the charity.

According to Time Magazine, 1.7 million people worldwide have donated just shy of $80M to combat ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), since July 29.

Last year over the same period, just $2.5M was raised.


2nd try for Glenmore car wash

After a similar application was rejected by City Council earlier this year, proponents of a proposed car wash in Glenmore are taking another shot at a new location.

City Council supported a text amendment Monday that would pave the way for a car wash to be constructed at the corner of Glenmore and Union roads.

A previous application for a car wash further south on Glenmore was quashed by council due to neighbours concerns over noise and the fact the location was adjacent to a park.

Urban Planner, Lindsay Ganczar, says staff has no such concerns over the new location.

She says the new location at Glenmore and Union is on a larger parcel of land, allowing for adequate landscaping and buffering.

She says the applicant has been in touch with neighbours, both landowners and renters, and has not received any negative feedback.

"Comments that have come back to the applicant so far are positive. Two of the main things are the proposal will clean up the weeds and the rodents on site and staff have not received any feedback from neighbours."

The item will now go to public hearing Sept 9.

Old fruit plant flood

Crews are still figuring out what caused an overnight flood at the old BC Tree Fruit building.

Water has been turned off to the building but the entire warehouse has close to an inch of water across the floor.

Fortunately, the building was empty as BC Tree Fruits moved their storefront operations to a building behind the property last month.

“At this point from what we understand it is under control, and now they are going through the stages to determine exactly what happened, what caused it and the extent of any damage if any,” explains BC Tree Fruits media officer Chris Pollock.

He says they were made aware of the issue this morning and sent over their engineering team to work with the City of Kelowna.

At this time they are not sure if it was a pipe in the building that burst or a City of Kelowna pipe underneath.

The property is still technically owned by BC Tree Fruits but is currently in the process of being sold to developer Gary Tebbutt who hopes to turn it into a public market.

Mission helps find homes

It's been a record breaking summer at Kelowna's Gospel Mission.

The Mission has helped more than 100 people find a home to call their own.

"We're an emergency shelter, not a long term shelter. As long as a client is willing, we work to support them in connecting with community partners, using a client-centered approach and best practices,” explains case worker Chris Moffat.

According the the Mission, they assist over 600 new clients each year by creating a pro-active long term plan of support for clients which includes ensuring all their needs are met.

Communications director, Ami Catriona says that for many of their clients getting that housing is the last step before full independence.

“This achievement is especially impressive considering the barriers facing clients. Barriers include the cost of housing in Kelowna, and the extremely low vacancy rate. Ministry Assistance is $610/month, which allows for $375 for shelter and $235 for food and bills. Clients often must find friends to share the cost.”

She adds that often a lack of references or credit, not to mention clients dealing with mental health issues or overcoming addictions can be obstacles to secure housing.

"Contrary to the perception, Kelowna's Gospel Mission is the first step to housing," says Executive Director Randy Benson.

"We do not enable homelessness, but rather we are in the housing business. We are the safety net that catches those in need, that keeps them from falling in to chronic homelessness. The figures speak for themselves.”

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