Wildfires half human caused

As the number of large wildfires continue to burn across the province, BC Wildfire Services says we don’t need any more human caused fires.

There have been 310 wildfires from lightning cause and 290 fires are human caused, making for fifty-fifty split at this time.

“If you take the 10 year average over the course of the season, about 40 percent of wildfires would be human caused by the time we investigated all the causes,” said BC Wildfire Service Information Officer Ryan Turcot.

The large wildfire of note that are currently burning are still under investigation and Turcot said the cause is still being determined.

“We do currently have a large number of wildfires that are quite concerning and have quite a large human impact just in terms of evacuations that are being caused,” he said.

Turcot said normally, 60 per cent are lightning caused.

“I really do want to emphasis to the public to please just use as much caution as you can,” he said. “Another human caused fire is just going to divert critical resources away from the larger fires we are already dealing with.”

BC Wildfire Service is reminding the public to use as much caution as they can in the back country right now and to pay close attention to all the fire restrictions.

The largest wildfires in size currently are:

  • Hanceville Fire at 125,000 hectares
  • Elephant Hill at 52,622 hectares
  • Tautri Lake at 49,146 hectares


Wildfires top priority

The B.C. wildfire situation was the first thing Premier John Horgan discussed during a cabinet meeting on Wednesday in Victoria.

The state of emergency has been extended to ensure a co-ordinated response to the wildfires.

"When we face difficult times, people and communities come together to help each other,” said Horgan.

Horgan announced he is committed to providing ongoing direct financial support to evacuees.

The one-time $600-per-household funding will be renewed every 14 days until evacuees return home.

“Our government is stepping up our support of the people affected by the devastating wildfires in the B.C. Interior,” he said.

He also created a cabinet task force that will address the wildfire situation:

  • Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
  • Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General
  • Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development
  • Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure
  • Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
  • Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness

Horgan said a strong, co-ordinated response to the wildfires is his governments highest priority. 

"To the evacuees, emergency responders, firefighters and volunteers: British Columbians stand with you every step of the way," he said.

$400K raised for sick mom

An entire community has rallied around a sick mother of two, raising over $400,000 for a new treatment trial in Seattle.

Leah Wiebe, a 29-year-old Terrace woman, was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of leukemia in spring 2016, and has been battling the disease for over a year.

After several treatments proved ineffective, doctors determined that Wiebe's only remaining option was to try a new treatment, CAR T-cell therapy, that's offered at the Fred Hutch Cancer Centre in Seattle.

Doctors gave Wiebe mere weeks to live, but the Fred Hutch Cancer Centre required a $650,000 deposit to cover anticipated expenses before she could be admitted.

Several Terrace businesses rallied around the cause, hosting fundraisers, and thousands of people donated money.

A YouCaring crowd funding page has raised over $312,000 while a separate GoFundMe page has raised over $54,000. All combined, total donations reached more than $400,000.

While an unbelievable amount, it still wasn't the needed $650,000, but on July 13, the government stepped in to help.

The Ministry of Health reviewed Wiebe's case and approved funding for her out-of-country medical expenses.

With this announcement, Wiebe will be heading to Seattle to take part in the trial, and will use some of the funds raised to pay for accommodations, travel and the cost of living while in Seattle.

Wiebe's future is still very much uncertain.

“If it turns out that Leah is healed/cured the remaining funds beyond Ryan and Leah's immediate family needs will be given to help other Leukemia patients who find themselves facing the same life threatening financial challenges Ryan and Leah faced,” wrote Leah's family on her YouCaring fundraising page Monday.

“We are very grateful for everything that all of you have done to help save Leah and help her family.”


At least 41 homes lost

Officials in one of the regions hardest-hit by B.C. wildfires provided a grim update Wednesday on the number homes lost, and say the tally is expected to grow.

The Cariboo Regional District said 41 homes have been destroyed and more than 35,000 residents on about 13,000 parcels of land are under either evacuation orders or alerts.

Another eight homes were confirmed lost in the Central Okanagan region last weekend and almost three dozen mobile homes were destroyed when fire raced through the Boston Flats trailer park next to Cache Creek when the fires first flared up in early July.

The number of homes destroyed in the Interior could still grow, said Cariboo Regional District Chairman Al Richmond, noting there are still several areas officials haven't been able to access because of fire activity.

"I believe it is probably quite likely that the number will still go up, but we can only limit it to the roads we've been able to do so far," he said.

The new premier said people who are kept out of their homes for more than 14 days will get a second payment of $600, which will be paid out of a previously announced $100-million fund administered by the Canadian Red Cross.

The BC Wildfire Service said 140 fires were burning across the province Wednesday morning, including 15 that threatened communities.

Paint spill closes highway

UPDATE: 7 p.m.

Revelstoke RCMP responded to a collision 30 kilometres west of Revelstoke to find 60 individual buckets of 18.9 litres of paint spilled all over the highway, covering all the lanes.

The tractor trailer swerved to avoid rear-ending a tractor trailer on the highway and as a result the buckets broke free.

Police said vehicles were also covered in white paint, but no one was injured.

Trans-Canada Highway was closed for about 90 minutes while crews worked to clear up the mess.

A 32-year-old B.C. man was issued a violation ticket for having an insecure load.

Crews are on scene working to still clean up the spill. According to police, the spilled paint possesses no harm on the environment and a further clean-up will take place on Thursday.

UPDATE: 2:40 p.m.

A person who was previously stuck at the highway closure near Three Valley Gap says traffic has started moving. 

UPDATE: 2:20 p.m.

A witness who drove through the paint spill shortly after it happened says it looked like a truck had spilled its load of several large paint containers at about 12:30 p.m.

"It smashed all over the highway," Adam said. "Cars were getting it all in their tires and wheel wells and on their skirts and stuff."

Adam says he slowly drove through the spill, but still managed to get some on his passenger-side tires. 

"The whole road was just doused in white paint," Adam said. "Hopefully I can get that off somehow."

Police arrived at the scene and closed the highway just as Adam drove through. 

UPDATE: 1:55 p.m.

Highway 1 near Three Valley Gap is closed after a large amount of paint was spilled on the highway. 

Pictures from the scene show several vehicles covered in the light-coloured paint, along with large portions of the road.

It's unclear how the spill occurred.

DriveBC is expected to update the situation at 2 p.m.

ORIGINAL: 1 p.m.

The Trans-Canada Highway is closed at Three Valley Gap.

The route between Sicamous and Revelstoke is closed in both directions because of debris on the highway.

According to DriveBC, the situation is being assessed.

There is currently no timeline for a reopening of the highway. No detour is available.

More information when it becomes available.

Send pictures, video to [email protected]

Schmoozing new premier

John Horgan has been British Columbia's premier for less than a day and already the requests are flooding in, as various groups compete to get their respective wish lists into the new government.

Glen Hansman, head of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, offered his congratulations to the new government Wednesday as he highlighted a shortfall in promised funding needed to hire teachers and organize classes mere weeks before the academic year is scheduled to start.

"We're going to have to be patient. Miracles aren't going to happen overnight," Hansman said. "But I'm hopeful that over the summer the incoming government will be able to provide a bit more money to school districts."

Various environmental groups applauded the government's commitment to investing in clean economic growth, including Clean Energy Canada, GreenPAC, Ancient Forest Alliance and the Pembina Institute.

Horgan's government also received greetings from the Business Council of B.C. and three advocacy groups for the province's mining industry.

"We look forward to working with the new government to progress (on) key issues, such as access to land, capital and public geoscience to enable mineral explorers and developers to continue conducting their important work," said Edie Thome, head of the Association for Mineral Exploration.

5 dogs, 10 pups rescued

The BC SPCA has taken care of 15 malnourished pit bull puppies and is investigating an alleged puppy mill.

Senior animal protection officer Kathy Woodward said she was notified about a Facebook post by Okanagan Community Watch alleging animal cruelty and offering the pups for adoption. The SPCA has since seized the animals.

“I have 30 purebred blue nose pit bull puppies that need homes. They're 10 weeks (old) and need love and good homes,” OCW posted on July 17.

Five adult dogs and 10 puppies are now in the care of the SPCA, which believes the puppy mill was located in the wildfire evacuation area of 70 Mile and 100 Mile House.

“There are serious health concerns with the group over all,” said Woodward.

All of the dogs are malnourished and many have ear infections. Several are in foster care and the remainder at the Salmon Arm shelter.

The dogs will be kept in the care of the SPCA as the investigation continues. When they become available for adoption, it will be posted on the SPCA's main adoption web page.

Woodward said she would like to speak with the organizers of the Facebook group, but they have not responded.

Okanagan Community Watch was previously operated by the controversial Soldiers of Odin.

Body of hiker found

The body of one of the two hikers missing north of Harrison Hot Springs has been found, a week after the search for the couple began.

Search and rescue crews discovered the body of 44-year-old Greg Tiffin in Statlu Lake Tuesday, but his girlfriend, 34-year-old Sophie Dowsley, remains missing.

“All search resources remain engaged as we continue to look for the missing woman,” said RCMP Cpl. Mike Rail. “RCMP remain in close contact with the victim’s and missing woman’s families.”

The pair set out for a day hike on July 8, but a search for them didn't begin until four days later, when their truck was discovered near a trailhead by Harrison Hot Springs.

Dowsley's sunglasses were found on a rock at the top of Statlu Falls and items belonging to Tiffin were found below the waterfall.

Officials have said there have been fatalities at the waterfall in the past.  

Dowsley is from Australia, and her parents have recently flown to Canada.  

“It's the worst possible nightmare that you could imagine,” Peter Dowsley, the missing woman's father, told CTV News Sunday. “I couldn't dream of anything worse.”

- with files from CTV Vancouver

Man dies shortly after arrest

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. has been called to Prince George after a man died about an hour after he was arrested by RCMP.

Prince George RCMP responded to a call Tuesday of a man that was reportedly "casing vehicles" in a parking lot. When police located the suspect he attempted to flee on a bicycle.

The lone police officer on scene called for backup because a struggle allegedly ensued between the officer and the man.  

After the officer put in a distress call, several other members arrived on scene. Pepper spray was used during the course of police's interaction with the man and he was placed inside a police car.

Police requested immediate medical assistance after the man they arrested began to have a hard time breathing. When the ambulance arrived, the man collapsed after being taken out of the police car. The man was pronounced dead in hospital, just after midnight.

The matter is now under investigation by the IIO to determine if there is a connection between the man's death and the actions of the police.


13-year-old found dead

UPDATE: 2:50 p.m.

Police are investigating a potential homicide after the body of a 13-year-old girl was found in a wooded area of a popular park in Burnaby.

Cpl. Meghan Foster with the Integrated Homicide Investigations Team said Marissa Shen's family contacted RCMP late Tuesday night, reporting the teen missing.

Shen's body was found less than two hours later, at about 1:10 a.m. Wednesday morning, in some brush on the southeast side of Central Park.

The scene suggested the teen, who was set to start high school in September, may have been the victim of a homicide, Foster told a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

"It's still early in the investigation. Right now, this death is a suspicious death," she said.

An autopsy is being conducted to determine what caused Shen's death.

The teen was last spotted at her family's home near the crime scene around 1 p.m., and Shen wasn't in distress when she was last contacted by phone at 5 p.m., Foster said.

Police are asking anyone who saw Shen between 1 p.m. and 1 a.m., or anyone who witnessed suspicious circumstances in the park, to call investigators.

There are no suspects in Shen's death at this time.

"We understand there will be many questions, but until we know more and can provide more updates, we ask that the public remain vigilant," Foster said.

"This is an opportunity to remind your kids, and all members of your family, in fact, about the importance of personal safety and to not take it for granted."

RCMP said the current risk to the public is unknown because details in the case are minimal.

- with files from CTV Vancouver

ORIGINAL: 10:55 a.m.

Police are investigating a suspicious death in a Burnaby park Wednesday morning.

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has taped off an area of Central Park and has told CTV news they are looking into a suspicious death in the area.

Police are holding a press conference at 1:30 p.m., where more details on the investigation are expected.  

They say the investigation is into the death of a 13-year-old female. 

- with files from CTV Vancouver

Threats to kill firefighters

A firefighter near Williams Lake says he was threatened by a man who took exception to the fire crews' back burning operations.

On July 17, a firefighter was working in the Springfield Road area, west of Williams Lake, when a local resident allegedly told him he would kill firefighters if they kept up their back burning operations.

The firefighter said the man was with a group of other men, one of whom was carrying a handgun on his hip.

Tuesday, Williams Lake RCMP found the 44-year-old man the firefighter said made the threats, who acknowledged he had made the statements under “extreme stress.”

“At this time, charges against this male are not being considered, however to mitigate the possible risk, his firearm has been temporarily seized,” said Cpl. Janelle Shoihet in a statement.

The 57-year-old man who the firefighter said was carrying the handgun when the threat was made was also located.

Police found he was in possession of a loaded handgun and six rifles in his vehicle. Police seized the guns and arrested the man for having a loaded firearm in his vehicle. He's expected to appear in court in November.

“We understand that tensions are running high, but we have to continue to pull together as a community to fight the fires in whatever way we can,” said Inspector Jeff Pelley of the Williams Lake RCMP.

Emergency state extended

The new B.C. government is extending the state of emergency for another two weeks as wildfires continue to sweep across the province's Interior.

Premier John Horgan says additional support is necessary for the communities affected and those responding to the fires.

The current state of emergency expires on Friday and Horgan says he regrets having to extend it.

He says the extension means people who are kept out of their homes for more than 14 days will get a second payment of $600, that will be paid out of a previously announced $100-million fund administered by the Canadian Red Cross.

Horgan says the fires are unprecedented, and traditionally when an emergency is declared, people are usually back quickly, but he notes that some people are still out of their homes from the spring floods and they will also be compensated with the funding.

He says two of his ministers will co-chair a cabinet task force to make sure that the transition between governments for the emergency response is as seamless as possible.

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