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Skatepark rolling into town

After over a year of lobbying for a new skatepark in West Kelowna, Mason Barzilay’s goal will finally be realized.

Okanagan-Coquihalla Member of Parliament, Dan Albas, and West Kelowna Mayor, Doug Findlater, announced today the beginning stages of the Memorial Park Plan, an $813,000 infrastructure development that will include tiered amphitheatre seating, a bike park and the long-awaited new skatepark.

Barzilay, a competitive freestyle skier who was born and raised in West Kelowna, said the new skatepark will give young people in her community something to do.

“The West Kelowna skateboard park group on Facebook has over 200 members,” said Barzilay. “That’s over 200 kids that would be coming here on a regular basis.”

She said everyone has a right to affordable fitness activities, and the skatepark will provide this.

The new skatepark will be constructed in the same area the old one sits. Findlater said the old skatepark was built approximately 25 years ago. The cracked concrete leaves it pretty close to unusable.

Findlater said the total cost of the Memorial Park Plan is estimated at $813,000. Albas said $315,000 of that will be contributed by the federal government as part of their $46 million Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program, an initiative to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary.

The City of West Kelowna will provide $495,000 for the project from its capital reserves.

Brazilay’s fundraising efforts over the past year added an extra $1,800 to the skatepark funding. In addition to financial support, Findlater called Barzilay the “sparkplug” that got the ball rolling on the project.

“It (the skatepark) was in the Capital Plan but it was 2022 or something, and now the skatepark is being designed as we speak … to be constructed in 2016,” Findlater said.

In addition to the skatepark, the addition of permanent seating at Memorial Park will go a long way for community events held in the park, like Music in the Park, Canada Day celebrations and Westside Daze, according to Findlater.

“A gentleman sat in a chair at one of the events at Westside Daze (this past year) and the chair collapsed and he went down hill into a whole bunch of other chairs,” Findlater said. “He was fine. Fortunately they were plastic chairs and he was durable, but that’s when I said, ‘Gee we better get moving on this.’”

Findlater said for both the tiered seating and the new skatepark, he expects construction to begin as early as April 2016, with a possible completion date of that summer. 



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Westside bloomin' lovely

Judges with Communities in Bloom are visiting West Kelowna and Westbank First Nation to evaluate the communities on environmental action, urban forestry, landscape, heritage conservation and floral display.

This is the 11th year of partnership between the City of West Kelowna and Westbank First Nation in the national competition.

“We feel exceptionally good about this year’s competition," says Annette Beaudreau, Partners in Bloom committee chair.

“We’ve always scored very well, but we haven’t been named best in our population category yet, and that’s what we want our communities to achieve.”

Since Sunday and until Tuesday, the judges have been touring such places as: Gellatly Nut Farm, Kalamoir Park, the Westlake Road Upgrade, Shannon Lake, Gellatly Bay, the WFN waterfront, Webber Road Children’s Garden, the WFN Sncəwips Heritage Museum and more.

The communities are participating in the 20,001-50,000 population category, along with Dieppe, N.B., and Mission, B.C.

​Communities in Bloom is a Canadian non-profit organization committed to fostering civic pride, environmental responsibility, beautification and to improving quality of life through community participation and a national challenge.

The results will be announced in Kamloops, in October. 



Evacuation alert rescinded

After a successful weekend of containing the Shelter Cove fire, the evacuation alert for 70 properties has now been rescinded. 

This includes all properties along Westside Road from Denison Road, north to La Casa.

BC Wildfire Service firefighters will continue to monitor and work on the fire. 

Favourable weather conditions have continued to help firefighters on the ground as the 560-hectare Shelter Cove fire is now 75 per cent contained.

Fire Information Officer Jordan Turner says BC Wildfire Service crews will continue mopping up hot spots along the fire's perimeter. 

“A 21-person sustained action crew from Ontario has also been assigned to this incident,” says Turner. “Their assistance was made possible through the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, which co-ordinates the mutual sharing of firefighting resources between B.C. and other Canadian jurisdictions.”

For their safety, members of the public are asked to stay out of the fire-affected area as an area restriction has been issued. 

Please obey all warning and hazards signs and watch for any firefighters and fire suppression vehicles that are still working in this area. 

For a map of the restricted area, please see below.

The BC Wildfire Service is engaging contract crews, industry partners and local fire departments in wildfire suppression and response – given the many high priority wildfires province-wide, resources are ultimately limited.

The Kamloops Fire Centre is always urging caution in the backcountry and asking everyone in the province to refrain from activities that may cause a wildfire.

Human-caused wildfires are preventable and unnecessarily divert firefighting resources from naturally occurring fires.

As always, Central Okanagan residents are encouraged to prepare to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours. 

Please 'Know the Risks', 'Make a Plan' and 'Get a Kit'. 

Find out how to prepare your family by visiting the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre website and click on the 'Be Prepared' link.

To report a wildfire or open burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cell phone.



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Shelter Cove 75% contained

Favourable weather conditions have continued to help firefighters on the ground as the 560-hectare Shelter Cove fire is now 75 per cent contained.

Yesterday crews were optimistic weather conditions and boots on the ground would increase their containment numbers and they were right.

The fire is still burning at 560 hectares, but BC Wildfire is now calling it 75 per cent contained and crews will continue to work to increase that containment number today.

There are 96 firefighters on the ground Sunday, along with four helicopters and five pieces of heavy machinery.

Westside Road has reopened as of Friday, and power has been restored to residents north of the fire.

While there has been intermittent rain in Kelowna today already, crews are hoping for further showers.

There is a 60 per cent chance of showers in Kelowna this afternoon, with risk of a thunderstorm and a high of 21 degrees. 



Lights back on at La Casa

UPDATED: 4:32 P.M.

The power has finally been restored at La Casa Resort, but it took far too long according to residents. 

BC Hydro said yesterday the power would be restored by 1 p.m. Friday, but it ended up taking until 4 p.m. Saturday. Mora Scott, spokesperson for BC Hydro said they tried to put La Casa on the generator power yesterday, but the load was too heavy to support. 

They were able to make repairs to the original system this afternoon and the resort is now back on the grid power.

One full-time resident of the area, Jay Bangay, ended up taking his wife and two dogs to Kelowna, and slept in his pickup truck for four nights. 

"We just lost every bit of food we had in the fridges and the freezer," said Bangay. "Since you're not on any evacuation, you can't get assistance from anybody.

"There's people who live out here who are losing everything and spending everything they have to survive."

A medical emergency last night at 3:30 a.m. in the resort was exacerbated by the lack of power as well. A man experienced kidney failure in one of the residences, and the rescue crews had to assist without lights. 

"They had to show up in the dark, there was no lights," said Keith Fisher, strata operations manager for La Casa Resort. "They weren't very happy."


UPDATED: 11:40 A.M.

As of 11:45 a.m. this morning, La Casa Resort residents are still without power, despite being told they would have their power restored by 1 p.m. yesterday.

"All of us are just so frustrated," said Sharon Olson, a La Casa resident. "I've called them (BC Hydro) and I'm just getting the run around, saying 'we don't know why.'"

Residents at La Casa have been without power since Monday, due to the Shelter Cove wildfire in the area. Power was restored to other houses along Westside Road yesterday, provided by diesel generators, but La Casa residents have yet to see anything. 

Juvina, a BC Hydro representative who declined to give her last name, said there has been no update on the status of the power at La Casa, and couldn't give a time when residents might see the lights come back on.


ORIGINAL: 1:44 P.M.

Residents at La Casa Resort on Westside Road have gone almost four full days without power – and they are not happy about it.

BC Hydro disconnected electricity to approximately 1,400 residents Monday night once the Shelter Cove wildfire took off, to protect fire crews.

On Thursday, BC Hydro began rotating power to 900 residents along Westside Road, 300 at a time for six-hour periods. But, La Casa was not included in the rotations.  

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Robin Shaw, a resident of La Casa. “BC Hydro has to be accountable for the 300 and some residents who have to lose all their meats and food, as well as rental money for people.”

Mora Scott, spokesperson for BC Hydro, said the utility company couldn’t include La Casa in the rotating power service because the demand there is too high.

“The system was reconfigured to provide power to the largest number of customers possible and, unfortunately, the load in the La Casa subdivision was too high for the low-capacity line that serves that area. So, we weren’t able to include them in that rotation,” Scott said. “There’s a heavier load in that area … we did try to pick up that load at one point, and unfortunately it was too much for that line.”

BC Hydro said in a statement Thursday that La Casa Resort would be provided power from diesel generators starting this morning. Shaw said that has yet to happen.

“When I phoned an hour ago (11 a.m.), they said they had no idea when it would be restored.”

Scott said at 1:15 p.m. La Casa would be receiving power from diesel generators “probably in the next few minutes.”

As of 1:45 p.m., that power had yet to be restored.

Shaw said she is speaking on behalf of all 300 residents of the neighbourhood when she says they are frustrated by La Casa being singled out.

“What we have a problem with is that every other residence on Westside Road here has had power but us – it’s just not fair.”

She said people in her neighbourhood have been forced to throw out thousands of dollars worth of meats and other perishable foods. Shaw is also concerned for those who aren’t living in their homes at the moment.

“There’s several people who aren’t here and can’t get up here. Their fridges are just going to be filled with rotten meat. God knows if it’s leaked onto their floors.”

Shaw said she’s sure BC Hydro can do better.

“It always comes off that they’re doing the best they can. Well, they’re not. It’s just not acceptable in this day and age.”



Rain helps fire efforts

Rain fell over night in the Okanagan providing some much needed relief for fire crews fighting the Shelter Cove wildfire along Westside Road.

Approximately 5 – 8 mm of rain fell over the fire last night and there is more forecasted for tonight.

“That was really good, that kept fire suppression down and that’s going to help with today,” said Kelsey Winter, fire information officer.

The fire is still burning 560 hectares and fire crews have it 25 per cent contained. Winter said they expect that containment to increase by the end of day, thanks in part to the help they received from above.

"We're hoping that because the rain we're going to receive tonight and the rain we received yesterday, that we'll be able to up that containment by the end of the day," Winter said.

Westside Road has now been fully opened.

There are 77 firefighters working on the fire today, along with four helicopters and seven pieces of heavy machinery.

There is a 30 per cent chance of showers in Kelowna this evening and a 60 per cent chance of showers tomorrow. 



Westside Road reopens


Westside road will be completely open to traffic in both directions, as of 7 p.m. tonight (Friday).

The closures at La Casa and Cinnabar Creek will be removed and motorists will be able to travel north and south, according to Central Okanagan Emergency Operations.

The road was closed since Monday due to the Shelter Cove wildfire.

The emergency centre advises motorists to watch for and give way to any emergency vehicles or first responders that are still working on the fire.

Meanwhile, an evacuation order has been lifted, but an evacuation alert remains in place for approximately 70 properties in the area. Residents should be prepared to leave on short notice should conditions with the fire change.



Residents heading home

UPDATE 5 p.m.

Winds have shifted in the Central Okanagan causing increased smoke from the Shelter Cove wildfire.

Information officer Kelsey Winter says crews saw very little fire activity today with this blaze, and there is no cause for concern.

The fire remains 25 per cent contained, and crews will be on site for the night.


The evacuation order for the 70 homes near the Shelter Cove wildfire has been downgraded to an evacuation alert, allowing residents to head back home.

The fire is now 25 per cent contained, with the majority of that containment occurring along Westside Road, where the evacuations took place.

The order was originally issued Monday evening, after a lightning strike sparked a fire that rapidly grew.

The Regional District of Central Okanagan warns residents that the fire is still very much active and people should not go near the area that has been burned.

Under the downgraded evacuation alert, residents should still be prepared to leave their homes on short notice if the fire becomes aggressive again.

Power is currently not available for those people who are returning to their homes today. BC Hydro said they are working to restore that power as quickly as possible, but a time has not been given as to when that might be.

BC Hydro did say they are planning to have continuous power delivered to residents who have been receiving power on a rotational basis by 1:00 p.m. today. This includes residents in the La Casa subdivision. This will be accomplished by using temporary diesel generators.

The Emergency Support Services reception centre at the Westbank Lions Community Centre is now closed. Any referral forms for lodging issued by the ESS are now void, regardless of the expiration date written on them.



Going home - a checklist


Residents returning home after days of being under an evacuation order due to the Shelter Cove fire are reminded they must be prepared to leave again on short notice if conditions change.

Central Okanagan Emergency Operations advises residents the wildfire is still active and an evacuation alert remains in affect.

There is no electrical service for those returning home, however, crews are working to restore power. The lack of electricity may impact the availability of other services, such as water or septic, depending on the source/provider.

Residents are also reminded active fire suppression continues in the area west of Westside Road.
 
While on Evacuation Alert:

  • Prepare an emergency survival kit (e.g. medications, important documents, clothing etc.) and ensure other family members know where kits are stored.
  • Identify and collect any personal belongings that you may wish to take with you in case you have to leave your home again.
  • Secure and remove any flammable items such as doormats or patio furniture that is close to structures
  • Make a plan for your family. Designate a meeting place in case your family is separated.
  • Make arrangements for pets in case you have to leave your home again.
  • Know where utility shut-off valves are located and ensure other family members know the locations.

If you have to evacuate:

  • Take your emergency survival kit with you. Make sure you take prescription medicine and identification for all family members.
  • Shut off water, gas, electricity only if instructed to do so.
  • Lock up your home.
  • Follow the routes specified by emergency officials.  Don’t take short-cuts.  A short-cut could take you to a blocked or dangerous area.

If you are evacuated, you will be asked to register with Emergency Support Services.

Residents serviced by either the Traders Cove or North Westside waste transfer stations can dispose of any spoiled food or other items during the normal operating hours. 



Fire partially contained

The B.C. Wildfire Service is describing the Shelter Cove wildfire as 25 per cent contained this morning, after cooler temperatures Thursday and overnight allowed crews to establish control lines.

Jordan Turner, fire information officer, said the bulk of the containment runs along Westside Road, as this line has been the top priority due to its proximity to homes.

Despite the progress, Turner said he expects the total area of the fire to have increased from yesterday’s 460 hectares, although he doesn’t have an exact number at this time. He attributes the growth to the increase in activity along the southwest flank of the fire.

Sixty firefighters along with seven helicopters will be fighting the fire today, looking to establish more control lines along the north and south flanks. They will also be mopping up more areas near Westside Road to ensure houses there remain protected.

Turner said the western flank is the least controlled, but there are natural barriers on that side, specifically old fire remains.

“It would be the area that is not yet fully contained, but it’s also the area furthest away from anything that could be threatened,” Turner said. 



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