West Kelowna  

Tankers battling blaze

UPDATE: 9:56 p.m.

According to fire information officer Justine Hunse the fire is now measured at .53 hectares in size.

They still have three firefighters on site who will be working into the night.

The firefighters will be returning on Sunday, she said.

UPDATE: 7:24 p.m.

The area of the fire has now been mapped at one hectare in size, according to fire information officer Justine Hunse.

There are three firefighters on scene for the evening and two air tankers have ringed the area with retardant.

The two tankers have now been released.

Hunse said they suspect the fire to be human-caused.

ORIGINAL: 4:35 p.m.

A small wildfire has been sparked in the Garnet Valley area, between Peachland and Summerland.

The BC Wildfire Service has sent two air tankers to fight the fire, along with three firefighters.

The blaze appears to have started Saturday afternoon, but Justine Hunse, fire information officer, says they don't know exactly when it began.

The blaze is currently 0.2 hectares in size, and is burning about three kilometres west of Highway 97.

Hunse says there is a building within one kilometre of the fire, but she couldn't elaborate on what type of building it is.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Garnet Valley wildfire is currently the only wildfire burning in the Central Okanagan. 

On June 13, a 2.5 hectare wildfire, the first of the season in the Central Okanagan, was sparked off Westside Road.

This year, the Kamloops Fire Centre, which extends north to Wells Gray Provincial Park, south to the United States border, west to Lillooet and east to Revelstoke, has responded to the 36 wildfires, covering a total area of 57 hectares. 

This time last year the Kamloops Fire Centre had responded to 67 fires, covering 211 hectares. 


No blame laid yet in fire

Fire investigators are no longer at the scene of the wildfire that burned off of Westside Road on June 13, and despite witnesses saying the cause was obvious, an official conclusion may take months to reach.

The 2.5 hectare fire was sparked just after noon on the sunny Tuesday, quickly spreading up Blue Grouse Mountain due to the strong winds in the area.

Shawn Lafond was driving by at 12:20 p.m. when he noticed the smoke, prompting a call to 911.

"There was a tent and a fire pit, for a small campfire, but then it looked like they had a spot where they had a bonfire above it," Lafond said the day of the fire. "It looked like maybe they had a bigger fire throughout the night and then let that log smoulder or something."

A resident of the neighbourhood told Lafond several people had been camping in the area for about three weeks.

A week and a half later, the BC Wildfire Service has classified the fire as “under control,” and fire investigators are no longer on site.

Despite completing the evidence gathering part of the investigation, fire information officer Justine Hunse says that's just the first step.

“That's then followed by preparation of reports of their findings,” Hunse said. “That information is then shared with agencies such as the Compliance and Enforcement Branch, Conservation Officer Service and the RCMP for possible further action.

“All those steps do take time.”

She says when determining a fire's cause, investigators take into the account the direction the fire has spread, topography of the land, weather and witness reports.

If a person is found to be responsible for a fire, Hunse says they can be held accountable for all related damages and the costs associated with fighting the fire.

The investigation could take weeks or months to complete. 

Bin fire in West Kelowna

West Kelowna Fire Rescue had an early start to their day, responding to a morning bin fire.

Crews were called out to a fire at West Manufacturing on Marmot Lane at around 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

Thick, black smoke could be seen coming from the bin fire, but before crews could douse the flames they had to get past a locked gate.

There is no word on the cause of the fire or if it caused any damage.


Double collision on Hwy 97

UPDATE: 1:28 p.m.

The highway has reopened southbound and the crash has been cleared, drivers at the scene report.

Traffic had backed up to the Glenrosa overpass and all the way into Peachland as of 1:15 p.m.

ORIGINAL: 1:15 p.m.

A double collision is causing a major traffic tie-up on Highway 97 between West Kelowna and Peachland.

A collision about 12:15 p.m., believed to be a rear-ender, was followed by another crash at 12:30 p.m. involving a motorcycle in the Drought Hill area.

The severity of the crashes and any injuries involved is not known at this time.

Southbound traffic is blocked at the overpass coming off the Okanagan Connector, and is being rerouted onto Highway 97 and back down into Peachland via the Trepanier exit.

It is reported to be heavily backed up.

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West Kelowna squeezed

West Kelowna doesn’t have enough land, and that’s hampering efforts to build new recreation facilities, city hall, and more.

“Land is a big challenge,” Mayor Doug Findlater told members of the Greater Westside Board of Trade at a state of the city address, Thursday.

Speaking to the crowd at the Cove Lakeside Resort, Findlater said a lack of appropriate places to put new buildings in West Kelowna is causing problems.

He pointed to the new soccer dome the city would like to build. West Kelowna has support from a provincial soccer association to build the structure, but, since there isn’t really any place to put it, the project has become “a lot more complex.”

Then there’s the dream of an entire sports complex, or, the new city hall that will in all likelihood eventually be built — where would they go?

Findlater said to deal with the problem, the city is looking at a land management plan that will include strategies for acquiring more land, but also selling land the city already owns.

Nothing is even close to being decided, and more research will need to be done before anything moves forward, but Findlater twice raised the possibility that some city parks might end up getting sold.

He pointed out that most every economic indicator in the city is going up, including population, the number of business licences issued, construction activity and housing starts.

There were also a record-breaking number of single family homebuilding permits issued in 2016, “and all signs point to an even better year in 2017.”

Boil advisory lifted

The Regional District of Central Okanagan has lifted a boil-water advisory for users of the Star Place water system.

The community water system services eight properties off Trepanier Road, near the Okanagan Connector.

Turbidity in the water has greatly improved since the notice was issued May 24. 

Water quality is back to normal operating levels and within acceptable guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality, the RDCO says.  

Bicycle drive-by goes to trial

The man accused of a brazen drive-by bicycle shooting will face trial in Supreme Court.

Tyrone McGee, 29, was arrested in the late hours of Aug. 2, 2016, after he allegedly fired multiple shots from his mountain bike into a 48-year-old man's car on Hudson Road in West Kelowna.

As the shooter attempted to reload, the driver of the car swerved into the man on the bicycle and crashed into a street light.

McGee was arrested nearby shortly after, with the help of Ice the police dog.

The driver of the car was seriously injured from eight gunshots to the chest, leg and hand.

McGee was charged with attempted murder along with several other firearms-related offences, and had a preliminary inquiry Monday to determine if the Crown has enough evidence to proceed to Supreme Court.

The victim in the shooting was Reginald Purdom, a key witness for the U.S. government in Kevin Kerfoot's drug conspiracy case.

Kerfoot, 53, was charged with organizing a plot to smuggle 41 kilograms of cocaine into Canada in 2005.

Purdom had previously served 54 months in jail after he was caught bringing 24,000 ecstasy pills into the United States to trade for the cocaine.

Purdom, now free from jail, was shot in West Kelowna two weeks after Kerfoot lost his appeal bid to halt his extradition to the United States.

Kerfoot pleaded guilty to the drug smuggling charges in April, nine months after the shooting, and faces a minimum of 10 years in jail.

McGee will be back in court on July 24 to schedule a trial date.  

Cooking fire sparks blaze

A report of a late-night car fire in West Kelowna turned out to be a small wildfire.

Fire crews responded to the fire just after 11 p.m., near the intersection of Gellatly Road and Angus Drive.

When the first crews arrived, they reported fire and smoke showing from a wooded area above several homes on Angus Drive, says assistant fire chief Darren Lee.

The fire was upgraded to a wild land fire with a second alarm.

With the assistance of Lakeview Heights fire crews, firefighters stretched a hose through an adjacent residence and used wildland hose packs to attack the blaze.

Once the fire was knocked-down, firefighters worked to establish a hand-guard around the perimeter.

Preliminary investigation indicates the fire was caused by an unattended cooking fire in a makeshift camp.

Twenty-one firefighters fought the blaze. Police and BC Ambulance also attended, although it is not believed anyone was hurt in the incident.

Vehicle heads into the bush

A vehicle heading down Glenrosa Road from the Crystal Mountain area went around a curve near the cattle guard, went off the road into the shoulder, over corrected and then drove into the bush Tuesday evening.

Despite the scare, no one was injured in the mishap that occurred just before 7 p.m., according to a witness at the scene.

One lane of the road was closed with police, a fire crew, ambulance and a tow truck on scene.

A licence to grow

Trent Kitsch is now licensed to cultivate medical marijuana out of his West Kelowna facility.

Health Canada issued the licence Friday, a little more than a month after inspecting the operation.

The licence only allows Kitsch to cultivate medical marijuana, not sell the product.

"Once we create two quality-assured batches ... we'll get our licence to sell," Kitsch said. "It's our goal to get our licence to sell in 2017."

The West Kelowna facility is one of just a dozen in B.C. able to legally produce marijuana. Only seven of those are currently able to sell medical marijuana.

At the same time, Kitsch is planning to open a coffee shop on Bernard Avenue in Kelowna under his company name, DOJA. He stresses it's not a cannabis dispensary.

"We're going to be selling coffee, and let people know that we exist.

"We will wait for the province and municipality to lay out their plans, and only pursue what is legal and above board."

The company is just completing it's last round of financing, and expects to begin trading publicly in July.

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