Tattoo free for evacuees

Wildfire evacuees who remain in Vernon have been invited to see the Okanagan Military Tattoo for free this weekend.

While the evacuation order for Williams Lake was lifted Thursday, evacuees were warned of smoke and unsettled fire conditions around the area.

Evacuees remaining in Vernon can pick up tickets to the Tattoo, while they last, at the Ticket Seller box office at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre, 3800-33 Street, during normal box office hours. All that is required is the yellow copy of the evacuee's Emergency Social Service file.

The complimentary tickets are, in part, due to a donation from Kal Tire and can only be obtained at the Performing Arts Centre or at the Kal Tire Place box office two hours prior to each performance. Evacuee tickets cannot be obtained by phone or online.

The Okanagan Military Tattoo takes place Saturday evening, July 29 at 7 p.m. and on Sunday afternoon, July 30 at 2 p.m.

This year's Tattoo features more than 600 performers including the Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy, the 160 member Calgary Round-Up Band and the RCMP "E" Division Pipe Band as well as a ethnic dancers and a large contingent of cadets from the Vernon Cadet Summer Training Camp. 


Fire fight continues

UPDATE: 4:20 p.m.

The status of a wildfire in the Monte Lake area remained the same Thursday afternoon, with no new growth reported. All evacuation orders and alerts remained in place. 

Although the BC Wildfire Service had not confirmed the destruction of any structures, it is known that at least one house was burned overnight.

"We have 26 firefighters on scene with three pieces of heavy equipment and two helicopters overhead," said Max Birkner, fire information officer.

"Firefighters will be on the lines overnight."

UPDATE: 11:40 a.m.

A wildfire threatening homes in the Monte Lake area was 30 per cent contained by late Thursday morning.

"It remains at 150 hectares in size and is not really active right now," said Max Birkner of the BC Wildfire Centre at the scene of the Martin Mountain fire. "It is a smouldering grass fire right now."

Three air tankers were tackling the fire while 24 firefighters and two pieces of heavy equipment remained active on the ground.

Castanet has received unconfirmed reports that at least one house has been lost. 

Birkner said earlier that homes had been threatened by the wildfire.

Evacuation alerts and orders remain in effect.

UPDATE: 10:50 a.m.

Highway 97 has partially reopened at the Monte Lake wildfire, DriveBC reports.

The road is now open to single-lane, alternating traffic.

Motorists are advised to expect delays.

UPDATE: 9:18 a.m.

A wildfire near Monte Lake was estimated at 150 hectares and growing Thursday morning. Evacuation orders and alerts remained in place and it was not yet known if any structures had been damaged or destroyed.

Reconnaissance aircraft were flying over the area this morning, said Max Birkner, BC Wildfire Centre information officer.

“We've had 31 firefighters on scene overnight,” Birkner said.

Birkner refused to speculate on the cause of the Martin Mountain wildfire which ignited Wednesday afternoon near the highway, stating that a fire origin cause team would be on scene to investigate. However, the centre's website stated the fire was human caused.

“The fire did threaten some homes and evacuation alerts and orders remain in place. It was very close to some homes. Right now, we have no confirmation structures have been lost.”

Highway 97 by Monte Lake remains closed in both directions.


More people have been forced to flee their homes as wildfires continue to burn across British Columbia.

A rapidly moving fire near Monte Lake, between Vernon and Kamloops, prompted the Thompson-Nicola Regional District to declare a local state of emergency and issue two evacuation orders Wednesday night covering about 60 properties.

BC Wildfire Service information officer Rachel Witt said the fire had burned about one square kilometre and crews were responding with all available resources.

"We currently have air support as well as ground support assigned to this incident," she said, confirming homes are at risk. There is no word if any structures have been lost.

Other properties along the eastern shore of Monte Lake, as well as several north and west of the community, are on evacuation alert, which means residents may need to leave at a moment's notice.

Evacuees have been told to head to Kamloops, where thousands of others have taken refugee as more than 150 fires burn across the province.

–with files from The Canadian Press

Home lost in wildfire

At least one home has been lost in the Martin Mountain fire near Monte Lake.

A Gofundme page has been set up for a family who lost their home to the wildfire Wednesday night.

The fire broke out north of Monte Lake along Highway 97 and quickly spread up the mountain.

Max Birkner, fire information officer, said there were reports that homes were threatened Wednesday night, but he could not confirm Thursday morning if any were lost.

However, it was confirmed online that at least one home was destroyed.

“Tobin and Shane, and their two little girls have lost their house and everything they own in the Monte Lake, B.C. fire last night,” said a statement on the Gofundme page.

“Shane was at work when the evacuation order was set and Tobin and the girls were in town. They were not allowed to return home to save anything and quite literally have nothing left but each other and the clothes on their backs.

“The coming months are going to be challenging for Tobin and Shane as they work to rebuild their lives while caring for their two-year-old and four-month-old daughters.”

There is no word if any other homes were damaged or destroyed in the blaze.

The cause of the fire is not known but, because it started next to the highway, there is speculation it was started by a discarded cigarette.


Fire risk up at Silver Star

Due to the current risk of wildfire, SilverStar Mountain Resort will be restricting the hours people can use the mountain trail network for all activities, including downhill and cross country biking as well as hiking.

“As of Monday July 31, and until further notice, the mountain trail system operational hours will mirror that of the lift operating hours for the Comet Express chairlift (daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesdays and Fridays until 7:30 p.m.).

“SilverStar Mountain Resort is doing this as a matter of safety for our guests and staff,” said Brad Baker, the resort's operations director. “At the mountain we are presently in a high wildfire risk category, while just down the road in the Foothills it is extreme.

“We are restricting access to the trails outside of operational hours as our response to an emergency at that time could be delayed and with limited resources.”

Baker said the big concern is people using the trials after regular hours when staff on not on site.

“Through the day we are well-equipped....Every vehicle is set up as an initial attack vehicle.”

Baker said restricting access to the trail after hours is necessary because the staff are just not there to take action in the event of an emergency.

Signs will be placed around the resort indicating and explaining the restriction. Additional security staff will be on duty to enforce it.

SilverStar Mountain Resort wants to stress that smoking is not permitted on the mountain. There are designated smoking areas in the village.

Village restaurants, hotels and amenities will continue to be open outside of the lift operating hours.

Vernon's top cadet

A ceremony took place at the Vernon Cadet Training Centre Thursday morning as 290 cadets completed three weeks of training.

Army Cadet Helen Low of Vernon was recognized as the best cadet in 20 Platoon in the basic marksmanship course.

Low was presented with an award by Platoon Commander 2nd Lt. Dawn Royle.

The 290 cadets head for home on the weekend to be replaced by a second intake.

There at start of wildfire

Alanna Kelly

Darcy Lynn Galbraith and her mother were driving from Vernon to Kamloops Wednesday, when they saw a small puff of smoke from the side of the highway.

In only a matter of seconds, it would turn into a wildfire that grew to 150 hectares near Monte Lake.

“By the time we had gotten up to it, it was a little 10, maybe 15-foot radius fire,” she said.

“We parked our van and got out. We ran over, started pouring the water on the fire, and then the wind just picked up and took the fire up the hill.”

Galbraith believes it was a cigarette butt that started the blaze, as it started just two feet from the road.

"I didn’t even think to look for a cigarette butt because I was just trying to do what I could," she said.

It took only 30 seconds before the fire crossed the fence line along the highway.

“It hit the fence and then in about another minute, it was back into the trees,” she said. “Once we ran out of water and water bottles, we ran over to the van, I grabbed my phone and tried calling *5555.”

BC Wildfire Service would not confirm the cause of the fire, as it is still under investigation.

Prepare for emergencies

With a wildfire burning between Vernon and Kamloops, Vernon residents are being reminded to prepare for any emergency, including the possibility of evacuation.

A city press release states: “Emergency preparation is always important, particularly in high-risk conditions such as the current hot, dry weather in the Okanagan. The evacuation orders near Monte Lake are a reminder that conditions can change quickly and having a plan and being prepared can save lives and property.”

Residents are urged to have grab-and-go bags at work and in vehicles that contain:

  • Food (ready to eat) and water • Flashlight and batteries • AM/FM radio • Medications
  • Seasonal clothing • Blanket • Cell phone charger • Pen and notepad
  • Personal toiletries • Small First-Aid kit • Extra pair of glasses or contacts • Cash in small bills • Local map with your family meeting place identified • Whistle

Seniors should also include the following in their grab-and-go bags:

  • A two-week supply of prescription medications. If that’s not possible, ensure a copy of the prescription, with the recommended dosage and prescribing doctor, is included
  • A whistle or personal alarm to call for help
  • Written instructions for special medical or mobility equipment in case members of your support network aren’t immediately available
  • Extra eye glasses, hearing aids and hearing aid batteries
  • Spare footwear with any special orthotics

Residents can receive emergency notifications from the City of Vernon by subscribing online.

More emergency preparation tips can be found on a provincial website.

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