West Kelowna News
Neither the iconic Martin Mars water bomber, nor those who support her, are prepared to fade quietly into the sunset.
Chris Alemany drove from Port Alberni to Premier Christy Clark's constituency office in West Kelowna Thursday to hand over a petition with more than 18,000 signatures.
He was joined by more than half a dozen people also hoping to save the Martin Mars.
The water bomber had been under contract by the province to fight forest fires from 2007 through last year but was not deployed the last two fire seasons.
It was not contracted for 2014 as the province went instead with four "Fire Boss" amphibious airtankers.
The petition asks the province to reinstate the water bomber by providing a five year contract.
"This asset and its sister plane has served this province for decades with distinction, safety and effectiveness and could do so for many years to come," says Alemany as he presented the petition to the premier's constituency assistant, Cheryl Doll.
"It deserves and has earned its place in our arsenal of fire fighting tools and we need it now more than ever. I and the 18,000 citizens who signed this petition hope the province will reconsider its decision and give the Mars a contract for the next five years."
While touring the Smith Creek fire last week, Clark indicated the province had already surpassed its 2014 wildfire budget but added the province would not stop spending.
"If that is true I would simply ask you why you would stop using the Mars when the communities and people of British Columbia through the UBCM last year...and this petition of 18,300 and some....are pleading you to protect their homes and their communities directly by using the Mars to its fullest potential."
The province has stated the Martin Mars is not as efficient or cost effective as the new "Fire Boss."
It states during the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park Fire, the Martin Mars dropped 690,000 litres of water over 28 hours at a cost of .63¢ per litre while during the Smith Creek fire the "Fire Boss" group dropped 586,000 litres over 11.3 hours at a cost of .19¢ a litre.
The province further says the new aircraft can gather water from more than 1,700 lakes in the province compared with about 113 for the Mars.
Phil Goldie made the trip from Oliver to watch the handing over of the petition.
Goldie, a former firefighter, says he has watched the Martin Mars first hand.
"It's a good machine. It really worked well when we had a fire," says Goldie.
"We had a couple of them in Langford and we used the Martin Mars there and it worked out quite well."
Goldie says he saw the new planes for the first time this past weekend.
"I don't know how they worked up here. I guess they worked alright but I don't know if they were as good as the Martin Mars with a big dump of water."
Alemany admits there is some nostalgia behind the petition but also believes that the cost of using the Martin Mars is a small drop in the bucket in the overall yearly firefighting budget.
The province did offer to contract the Martin Mars on an 'as needed' basis in 2014, however, the owner turned down the offer needing a more concrete commitment.
Mass murderer David Ennis (formerly Shearing), behind bars for the brutal murders of six members of the Johnson and Bentley families, has withdrawn his request for a day parole hearing.
Tammy Arishenkoff, an advocate for the families, announced the news on a Facebook page dedicated to getting justice for the two families.
"Got the call this morning and David Ennis (Shearing) has waived his right to a full parole review as well as withdrawn his application for day parole! Considering he hasn't even seen our impact statements yet, this is a testament to the power of the people.
THANK YOU to everyone who signed a petition, got signatures, sent in a letter and supported us. With hope, our legislation will change and we will not have to do this for another 5 - 7 years," Arishenkoff states on a post to the page.
In the summer of 1982, Ennis shot and killed George and Edith Bentley, their daughter Jackie and her husband Bob Johnson. He kept the Johnsons' daughters Janet, 13, and Karen, 11, alive for almost a week and sexually assaulted them before taking them into the woods, one at a time, and killing them too.
He was sentenced to six concurrent terms of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for 25 years in April of 1984.
"This fight does not end here," continues Arishenkoff.
"Please support the bill that Colin Mayes is pushing to increase parole ineligibility and that I am doing everything I can to support. Write to Colin or your local MP and let's take our power to CHANGE THE SYSTEM! Families should not have to continue to suffer with these hearings every two years."
Shannon Lake Regional Park in West Kelowna is back open following the Smith Creek fire.
Weather conditions have greatly assisted the ongoing firefighting effort which now has the fire 100 per cent contained, and will see all evacuees return home tonight.
As a result, the park just off Shannon Lake Road is once again accessible for visitors.
The Regional District thanks everyone for their patience and understanding while the temporary park closure was in place.
A post-wildfire assessment of the Smith Creek Fire area by the BC Forest Service and the Emergency Operations Centre has concluded there is a low risk of erosion or debris flows.
Both can occur when wildfire activity is followed by periods of heavy rain, and emergency personnel will continue to monitor the area and watch drainage activity.
On Wednesday, the evacuation order for one property on Dixie Road was rescinded and placed on evacuation alert. And the Wildfire Management Branch now says the fire is 100 per cent contained and all evacuation alerts and orders will be lifted at 5 p.m. Thursday evening.
Approximately 1,100 homes had been on evacuation alert since being allowed back in their homes on Sunday.
The Area Restriction Order put in place by Wildfire Management Branch remains in effect. A map of the order area can be found at www.bcwildfire.ca.
The Evacuation Order for one property on Dixie Road will be rescinded as of 1:00 p.m. today (Wednesday) and an Evacuation Alert will be put into place instead for this property.
Dixie Road will also remain closed to all but local traffic.
The Evacuation Order for seven other uninhabited properties immediately above Smith Creek, Tallus Ridge and Shannon Woods Neighbourhoods remains in place.
A Local State of Emergency continues to exist in West Kelowna as the Smith Creek Fire remains active.
Approximately 1,100 homes remain on Evacuation Alert and residents should be prepared to leave their homes with little or short notice.
For their own safety, the public is requested to stay out of fire-affected areas and to obey all warning and hazards signs. The Evacuation Order area, including parks, trails and public and private lands, remains closed to the public.
The Smith Creek Fire is estimated at 280 hectares in size and is 60 per cent contained.
A post-wildfire assessment of the area is being conducted Wednesday by qualified professionals. The immediate weather forecast is predicting rain, and wildfire activity followed by periods of rain can cause erosion or debris flows.
The latest information and updated maps of the Evacuation Order and Evacuation Alert areas are available at www.cordemergency.ca. Read updated posts at www.facebook.com/CORDEmergency or follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/CO_Emerg. The public information line is 250-469-8490.
Four-year-old Summer Schneider gives her little dog Keko a big hug on the front steps of her West Kelowna home. The young girl is full of life, despite being bitten on the back of the head by a Bull Dog and having to undergo plastic surgery.
The incident happened Monday afternoon; Summer had been playing with friends in the backyard when she decided to visit a neighbour on the other side of the fence. It was only moments later Summer’s grandmother, Karen Moore, heard the screaming which sent her running from inside the house to find out what happened.
“Right away I knew that something had happened, so I went running out and the woman across the fence handed me Summer, I could see she was covered in blood,” says Moore. “She just said ‘a dog bit her’.”
Several neighbours came running to Moore’s aid, all three of them nurses at Kelowna General Hospital.
David Maynes-Tourond, who has worked in the emergency room of the hospital, described Summers wounds as severe.
“It was a head injury, so there was lots of blood,” he says.
"The laceration on the back of her head was fairly long and not in uniform shape, there was a curve on the top of her skull, it had folded over, her hair had folded into her scalp.”
Summer spent the night at the hospital and was released with her head bandaged on Tuesday morning.
“It doesn’t hurt anymore,” says the young girl.
“She is acting like nothing has ever happened, she is doing great,” explains a still shaken up grandmother.
The dog allegedly belonged to a neighbour, and Summer had played with the pup in the past. Castanet contacted dog control who reportedly attended the scene, but were unable to find the animal. An investigation is underway, however Moore believes the dog was relocated to Alberta.
“We assumed she was going up the stairs too fast and the dog was in a defensive mood, protecting his property and his family,” Moore says. “We really don’t know and the owners don’t really know what really happened.”
Now, this West Kelowna family is working together to ensure Summer makes a full physical recovery, but they're also hoping their child hasn’t been emotional scared by this traumatic experience.
“I don’t like mean dogs,” cries Summer.
“When this happened she asked for her own dog so there has been no repercussions so far,” adds Moore. “But I mean if anything does happen we will get her some counselling and get her some help.”
Summer is to get staples removed from her head next week, and will be reassessed at the time.
UPDATE: 5 P.M.
The Smith Creek Forest Fire, which began Thursday, July 17, is currently 60% contained. BC Forest Service crews are working to achieve 100% containment and West Kelowna Fire Rescue will continue to patrol interface areas to ensure the fire does not spread to residential areas.
An Evacuation Order for the Smith Creek Fire remains in effect for eight privately owned lots in the interface areas immediately above Smith Creek, Tallus Ridge and Shannon Woods Neighbourhoods, including all properties accessed off Dixie Road. Two residents living on a property accessed off Dixie Road remain under Evacuation Order, the other properties are unoccupied.
The Evacuation Order area, including parks, trails and public and private lands, is closed to the public, including Wildhorse Park and Tallus Park.
The Smith Creek Fire remains active and approximately 2,500 residents who have returned to more than 1,100 homes remain on Evacuation Alert and should be prepared to leave on short notice. The public must stay out of fire-affected areas for their own safety and obey all warning and hazards signs.
With weather forecasts indicating potential for heavy rain, the fire department is monitoring the area for potential run-off from fire affected areas and the District’s Engineering Department has been placed on standby.
Residents are asked if they see any fire activity related to the Smith Creek fire, not to call 9-1-1 as crews will still be actively working in the area and monitoring the situation.
The latest information, including street names and property descriptions, that remain under Evacuation Order, and street names that remain on Evacuation Alert can be found at www.cordemergency.ca along with an interactive map of the Evacuation Order and Alert areas.
Further updates will be posted, on an as needed basis, at www.cordemergency.ca.
Another good day for crews fighting the Smith Creek wildfire above the hills in West Kelowna.
Cooler temperatures and lighter winds Monday allowed crews to work on hot spots and flare ups within the perimeter of the fire.
The forecast continues to be favourable with temperatures expected in the mid 20's today (Tuesday).
Some rain is forecast today, with 10mm to 15mm expected to fall Wednesday. Thunderstorms are also predicted for Wednesday.
Lower humidity levels may result in more smoke and periodic open flames inside the fire containment area.
Officials say that while many visible signs of fire activity have been reduced, the public is reminded that work does continue. Crews will be using local roads to access the fire and the public may notice increased traffic volumes. Motorists are asked to use caution on and around the roadways.
The fire has not grown over the past 72 hours and remains at 260 hectares in size with 60 per cent containment.
"Our objectives are to safeguard the homes along the base of the fire and reinforce guards that have been established," says Fire Information Officer, Melissa Welsh.
Crews will work to establish 50 feet of wet line around the entire fire perimeter.
The Smith Creek fire began last Thursday afternoon.
All but a few of the estimated 2,500 people forced from their homes remain on evacuation order.
Those allowed to return home remain on evacuation alert and must be ready to leave at a moments notice.
The fire has been deemed to be human caused, however an exact cause is not known and may never be known.
3:25 p.m. update:
An Evacuation Order for the Smith Creek Fire remains in effect for eight privately owned lots in the interface areas immediately above Smith Creek, Tallus Ridge and Shannon Woods Neighbourhoods, including all properties accessed off Dixie Road.
12 p.m. update:
The Evacuation Order has been lifted for additional residents living near the Smith Creek fire in Tallus Ridge. But an order remains in place for eight large, rural, private properties in the interface areas immediately above Smith Creek, Tallus Ridge and Shannon Woods Neighbourhoods, including all properties accessed off Dixie Road.
The Smith Creek Fire continues to remain active and residents returning to their homes will remain on Evacuation Alert and should be prepared to leave their homes on short notice.
The public must stay out of fire-affected areas for their own safety and obey all warning and hazards signs. The Evacuation Order area, including parks, trails and public and private lands, remains closed to the public, including Wildhorse Park and Tallus Park.
Residents are asked if they see any fire activity related to the Smith Creek fire, not to call 9-1-1 as crews will still be actively working in the area and monitoring the situation.
An Evacuation Alert remains in effect for the following areas:
The following roads in the Smith Creek Neighbourhood:
· Asquith Road
· Bridal Hill Court
· Bridal Hill Drive
· Copper Ridge Drive
· Copper Ridge Court
· Copper Ridge Place
· Copper Ridge Way
· Doucette Drive
· Harold Road
· Ironridge Place
· Ironridge Road
· Rhinestone Road
· Shetler Drive
· Sandberg Road
· Sageview Road
· Saddleridge Drive
· Sugosa Place
· Salish Road
· Smith Creek Road
· Stone Ridge Drive
· Summerview Place
· Summerview Court
· Telcor Place
· Twin Place
· Whispering Hills Drive
· Wild Horse Drive
The following roads in the Alexandria Neighbourhood:
· Alexandria Way
· Shannon Lake Road
The following roads/properties in the Tallus Ridge Neighbourhood:
· Boulder Lake Boulevard
· Cobblestone Road
· Pebble Place
· Stone Grove Crescent
· Tuscany Drive
· Tallus Ridge Drive (including 2390 Tallus Ridge Drive)
The following roads in the Shannon Woods Neighbourhood:
· Shannon Woods Drive
· Shannon Woods Place
· Shannon Woods Way
· Shannon Woods Cres
· Shannon Hills Drive
· Shannon Hills Place
· Shannon Heights Court
· Shannon Heights Place
· Big Sky Drive
· Mountains Hollow Lane
· Paramount Drive
· Ryser Place
· Tallus Heights Drive
· Tallus Green Crescent
· Tallus Green Place
The Evacuation Order is still in effect for:
· 2850 Dixie Road
· Remainder Part West ½ DL3478,
· Remainder Part East ½ DL3478 & DL3478
· Remainder Part North ½ of W ½ DL3485
· Lot 27 DL 3485 Plan KAP58401
· Lot 1 DL2600 & 3793 Plan KAP84074
· Remainder DL2600 Plan KAP44535
· Remainder DL3793 Plan KAP44535
The Evacuation Alert has been lifted for:
- Bartley Road
- Lenz Road.
The latest information and updated maps of the Evacuation Order and Evacuation Alert areas are available at www.cordemergency.ca.
RCMP will be in the area to ensure an orderly re-entry and to enforce road blocks in areas where Evacuation Orders are still in effect. When returning home, be cautious in your neighbourhood and watch out for:
- Charred power poles and trees that may be unstable and fall.
- Live power lines lying on the ground.
- Small fires that may flare up without warning.
- Ash pits, which are holes filled with hot ash created by burned trees.
Interior Health provides useful information for residents returning to their homes. It deals with exposure to smoke from forest fires, food safety, water quality and septic tanks and disposal fields:
BC Wildfire Management Branch says the fire is 260 hectares in size and 60 per cent contained. Fires contained within the fire perimeter will continue to burn and be visible for several weeks.
The Emergency Support Services reception centre at Mount Boucherie Senior Secondary School will be closed at 6 p.m., Monday, July 21. The residents remaining on Evacuation Order will be provided Emergency Support Services assistance.
Original Story -- 9:30 a.m.
Approximately 300 people living in just over 130 homes continue to remain under an Evacuation Order in the Tallus Ridge and Smith Creek neighbourhoods. These homes are accessed via Mountains Hollow Lane, and via Dixie Road.
The Central Okanagan Emergency Operation Centre does not anticipate any further changes or adjustments in existing Evacuation Orders or Alerts before noon Monday.
Overnight, fire crews from West Kelowna and the BC Wildfire Management Branch conducted patrols for hot spots and extinguished flare ups. The fire remains active at a size of 260-hectares and is 60 per cent contained. Firefighters are reporting that more favourable weather conditions have helped in fighting the fire.
Another 1,000 homes remain on Evacuation Alert and those residents should be prepared to leave their homes on short notice if conditions change.
For a list and a map of street names and areas under Evacuation Order and those remaining under Evacuation Alert, please go to www.cordemergency.ca
For those who remain on evacuation orders, the Emergency Support Services reception centre at Mount Boucherie Senior Secondary School will be open at 9 a.m. this morning.
As if the threat of someone’s home burning down in the Smith Creek fire wasn’t enough, now it seems at least one house was burglarized during the evacuation order.
West Kelowna RCMP received a report on Sunday about a residential break and enter at a home on the 2500 block of Cobblestone Road.
The home’s residents were forced to evacuate on Thursday, and upon returning on Sunday found that someone had been inside.
A man’s watch, valued at $350 was stolen, but it had far more sentimental value to the owner. The thief had also taken some liquor as well.
At this time, it’s the only reported residential break and enter since the Evacuation Order was partially rescinded on Sunday.
The RCMP will continue to provide policing services to the evacuated area as well as areas not affected by the fire.
Three days after being forced from their homes by encroaching flames, many West Kelowna residents were relieved to begin resuming a version of their normal life again.
About 2,000 people were allowed to return to their homes in the Smith Creek Fire area on Sunday, while still remaining on evacuation alert. And several hundred others remain on evacuation order and are required to wait for an update expected around 12 p.m. Monday, before they are allowed to return.
Helicopters flew overhead and smoke could be seen on the hilltop as neighbours greeted one another and unpacked their vehicles.
At one point, the fire was a 20-minute hike up the hill from Jen McAnulty and Nick Forrester's home. "Tending the garden and having a drink," were the first things on their to-do list.
Bernie Bloomfield has lived in the Shannon Woods neighbourhood for more than 12 years and says it feels great to be home.
"The fire line came down quite close, so it was a big deal. Especially Friday night, Saturday -- especially with the winds so bad," he said. "This morning we got up and the smoke had gone down considerably and so I thought 'well, time to go home'."
Doug Greggain who lives on Tallus Ridge Drive said he was happy to be home, but that there had been some reported break-ins in his neighbourhood.
RCMP blocking Mountains Hollow Lane said only one break-in could be confirmed. No other details of the incident were immediately available.
Claudette Mazzei said she got back to her home around 12:30 p.m. She was two hours away camping when the evacuation order went out.
"Thank God - I'm just glad nothing happened."
Kayla Van Metre said she found out about the order when a friend from work called.
"He said, 'your hill is on fire!'" and I started packing as soon as he called."
They stayed with friends at a small cabin for a while, but ended up in Vernon for a night through emergency services.
"I was really impressed, the volunteers there - all the effort they put in to calm everyone down, they really lightened the atmosphere," said Van Metre.
A couple of hours after being allowed back home, Hailee Carroll was already mowing her lawn.
"I just felt like I had to do something," she said. "It feels awesome to be home."
Carroll and her husband have only been in the neighbourhood for less than two years, and said watching the flames was nerve racking.
"We came down a few nights and just kind of sat in our car across the street and just watched for a bit," she said. "I kind of felt like we would be okay, but you never know."
As of 12 p.m. Sunday the wildfire was 50 per cent contained, and 260 hectares in size. The leaders of the fire fight held a press conference today in Kelowna and said they hope to increase that number by Sunday night.
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