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Vernon  

Fire near Swan Lake

UPDATE: 8 P.M.

Two witnesses said they saw the fire soon after it started as two smaller fires.

Jeremy Korhonen said he was driving up McLennan Road when he saw the fires, which he estimated to be about 50 feet by 50 feet at the time.

He said when winds gusted, the flames grew significantly.

"Thirty seconds and it would climb another 50 feet kind of thing," he said. "It's amazing how fast it went, though."

He said he turned around, and headed to a house next to the fires, where he and the house's resident began spraying a garden hose at the flames.

Soon thereafter, fire trucks showed up, and they were asked to leave the area.

Jeff Campen said he looked out his living room window and saw that his neighbour's property had caught fire, before realizing some of his property was also on fire.

"And just packed up the dog and kids and headed to town," Campen said, noting he didn't believe he would get to stay at home on Wednesday night.

He said it was about 100 metres from his house.


UPDATE: 7:45 P.M.

The BC Wildfire Service has confirmed that it has responded to the fire.

Crews from the provincial service have joined the BX Swan Lake Fire Department and the Armstrong Fire Department, with ambulances and RCMP on the scene as well.

Two BC Wildfire Service helicopters are retrieving water from Swan Lake and dumping it on the fire, with 10 firefighters on the ground.

Skimmers are also en route to the fire, which is estimated at one hectare in size, and classified as a Rank 2 fire.

That means it is a smouldering ground fire with some open flames.

While the service could not comment on the activity at the time, a spokesperson said lowering temperatures in the evening would help the firefighters.

Witnesses have said that the smoke appears to be dying down.


UPDATE: 7:25 P.M.

According to two witnesses, the smoke coming from the area appears to have died down.

Kim Bolton said he saw "quite a lot of smoke coming from the area" about an hour ago, but that it is not as bad anymore.

"It certainly died down in the last little bit," he said.

Cameron Nachtegaele said it "looked like it was going to take off" when the smoke first started pluming from the hills.

"They got it knocked down really good," he added.


UPDATE: 7:10 P.M.

One witness has reported the fire to be above Atlantis Waterslides, up near McLennan Road.


ORIGINAL: 6:45 P.M.

A fire appears to have broken out in the BX hills above Swan Lake, near Vernon.

A witness said it is on the east side of Swan Lake and that fire trucks look to be on their way.

Castanet will update with details when they are available.

Send your photos and video to Castanet's newsroom at [email protected]



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Accident snarls 97 traffic

UPDATE: 6:20 P.M.

Highway 97 is once again open to traffic, according to Drive BC.


Traffic has come to a complete standstill heading northbound into Vernon.

Police are at the scene of an accident on Highway 97 near Kalamalka Lakeview Drive, several kilometres south of the city.

The accident happened about 4 p.m., and the northbound lanes were still closed at 5 p.m., causing a back up of traffic that extended for several kilometres.

No details on the accident have been released, but police at the scene were talking to the occupants of a small two-door car and a blue SUV. A motorcycle was also at the scene, but it is unknown if it was involved in the mishap.

Castanet will have more details as soon as they become available.



Creek victim identified

The BC Coroner's office has identified John Lennard Nickolas Holowaty, 47, as the man whose body was found in Vernon Creek last week.

On the morning of Aug. 20, two people walking along a short trail between 24th Avenue and 34A Street in Vernon spotted Holowaty lying in the creek. They immediately notified authorities, but Holowaty, who recently lived in Falkland, was dead at the scene.

The BC Coroners Service and RCMP continue to investigate to determine the cause and manner of Holowaty’s death, but foul play has been ruled out.





Camping out at Polson

Some of Vernon's homeless have set up camp on the fringes of Polson Park in the heart of the city shocking some local residents.

“Last night was crazy. My six-year-old and I were walking and it was scary,” said Chad Fraese, whose child was playing Pokemon Go. “Tents. Bikes all chained up. A drug addict was so out of it he could not stand – asking me to help him.”

A woman living in a neighbourhood above the park said nearby residents have suffered thefts, which she blames on the campers.

Sherry Lynn Rolko said some people are afraid to walk in that section of the park.

“There's at least 20 campers down at the park and a few of them right behind my house at Armoury Park,” Rolko said. “I see a lot of thieving with bicycles and stuff like that. I've been woken up a few times, 5:30 this morning. My shed in the back has been broken into a few times so I've had to put my expensive stuff indoors so it is not stolen.”

During a walk around Polson Park, by the boardwalk trail, only four tents were spotted with a number of people living in each one.

An RCMP officer stopped to chat with campers and make sure all was OK.

A woman, who identified herself as Kelly, said she's been camping out on a bluff in the park because the cost of renting a place is too high. A former drug user, Kelly said she has been moved on by CP Rail police for pitching a tent too closely to the rail tracks.

She said two tents beside her own house a couple and an older man with his adult son.

“We have had staff monitoring the situation and spending time in the park, as council approved us having some additional staffing for the summer,” said Clint Kanester, head of the city's bylaw department.

“Of course the shelter space has been full, and they are turning individuals away on a nightly basis....We are always concerned with anyone sleeping in the park or setting up tents or accommodation in the park, especially if they have nowhere else to go and shelter facilities are full."

“We are definitely in a severe housing crunch in Vernon, even more so than in previous years, and the number of camps has been on the rise in the last year, absolutely,” said Annette Sharkey, executive director of the Social Planning Council. “Service providers are definitely stretched to meet the demand and more resources are needed.

“It is not just people with mental health or substance use issues who are impacted by the housing crisis.  More and more, we are hearing of seniors and families struggling to find affordable places to rent and becoming homeless in our community. Lack of affordable housing continues to be one of the biggest social and economic problems facing our community as well as the rest of B.C.” 

"The shelter (housing) rate is $375 per month if you can verify housing has been secured. People on assistance receive $235 per month for food, fuel, phone bill, hydro, bus tickets, clothes, etc.," said Kelly Fehr, director of operations for the John Howard Society. "Minimum wage is not an adequate wage to support a family and pay rent. There is a lack of supportive and harm reduction housing. Shelters are full and routinely have to turn people away."



Get real at the Lounge

The future is now at the Downtown Internet Lounge in Vernon.

The lounge has been in operation for five years, and it will be celebrating the milestone by offering free trials of one of Vernon's newest forms of entertainment – virtual reality gaming.

The celebration will coincide with the Downtown Curbside Night Market on Friday.

"Statistics show that more than 50 per cent of small businesses fail to reach the five-year mark," said John Oh, the man behind the gaming, Internet and social hub situated in the heart of downtown Vernon.

Virtual reality gaming consists of a person experiencing a three-dimensional environment in which they interact with the game.

The Lounge currently has an HTC Vive, which features bio-sensing technology that allows a person's presence in the game to be directed by small sensors attached to the player's hands. The player's movements are then interpreted by a computer and trigger a variety of responses, making the player part of the game itself.

"The first time I tried it, it literally made me jump. A zombie came up behind me, and as I turned around it was right in my face. I yelled, and the entire shop laughed," said Oh.

The Lounge also an Oculus Rift, considered by many the next generation of virtual reality, as well as a Virtuix Omni, a locomotion simulator for virtual reality games that uses a platform to simulate the motion of walking or running.

The surface is bowl shaped, and sensors track a person's position, the length of their stride and how fast they are moving. The information is then sent to a computer that translates the data into game movement.

To celebrate its anniversary, the Lounge is collecting toys and food for the needy.

“After all these years of focusing our efforts solely on our community, we have decided to expand our horizons a little bit and plan to send 50 shoeboxes of toys to less fortunate children somewhere in the developing world,” said Mike Boshman, the Lounge's computer expert and gaming guru.

The food will be dispersed to various local charities.  



MP: Speak out on reform

North Okanagan Shuswap MP Mel Arnold is inviting constituents to speak out on electoral reform.

Information and response ballots have been mailed out to voters about a possible national referendum on electoral reform.

The governing Liberal Party is proposing changes to Canada’s system of calculating election results. The opposition Conservatives want a national referendum on the matter.

“In the absence of any clear proposal from the government on what or how they envision changing our system of voting, I believe it is appropriate to provide voters in Canada the opportunity to vote in a referendum to determine if this is something Canadians actually want,” said Arnold.

The ballot included with the information pamphlet allows constituents to mail back their opinion to the MP.

“Changing our system of democracy is a serious matter that should be based on the will of the people and a clear understanding of what that change may be,” Arnold concluded. “I sincerely hope that all constituents will take the opportunity to provide me their input on this very important national question.”



32nd Street repairs

UPDATE: 9:05 a.m.

The City of Vernon says that repairs to a water main that ruptured on 32 Street Tuesday have been completed and water service restored to businesses as of 1:30 a.m.

City crews will continue to repair the road and expect paving to be completed by end of day on Wednesday, according to a spokesperson. 

Single-lane traffic will remain in effect and drivers are asked to be patient or choose alternate routes of travel.  


A water main break at 32nd Street and 39th Avenue in Vernon is causing havoc for drivers heading north on the highway.

Police and fire crews were scene as City of Vernon staff try to rectify the problem that occurred just before 3 p.m.

“32nd Street is currently closed to northbound traffic due to a pipe which has broken and caused damage to the pavement near 39th Ave in Vernon.   Please use an alternative route until the problem is repaired,” said Const. Jocelyn Noseworthy, RCMP spokesperson.

An advisory from the City of Vernon warned that water service to businesses along 32nd Street, from 39th Avenue to 41st Avenue, had been cut off until repairs to the water main had been completed.

Drivers were asked to be patient or choose alternate routes of travel.

There was no estimated time for the restoration of services.



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