Wednesday, July 23rd24.2°C

Fossil footprints found in BC

Fossilized footprints uncovered in northeastern British Columbia suggest the ferocious tyrannosaurs that ruled the Earth 70 million years ago just may have been more gregarious than than they've been given credit for.

The trio of footprints preserved in a remote ridge of rock near Tumbler Ridge, B.C., is the first foot track evidence that the saw-toothed beasts were not solitary, but travelled in packs.

Richard McCrea, of the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre, says the tyrannosaur trails were exposed by heavy rains in the region in 2011 and the first two footprints were discovered by a local guide outfitter that October.

The guide immediately reported the find and over the next year, McCrea and his team uncovered five more tyrannosaurid tracks and dozens of other dinosaur footprints preserved so well that skin imprints are visible.

Each footprint is more than half a metre long, and paleontologists estimate the trio were 26, 29 and 25 years old.

Research on the Tumbler Ridge fossils is published in the latest edition of the scientific journal PLOS One.

The Canadian Press


Wild weather on the horizon

Get ready for some wild weather over the next few days, as Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for the Okanagan Valley.

They are forecasting heavy rain and thunderstorms to rage through the valley both Wednesday and Thursday, due to a low-pressure system crossing into the BC Interior.

The thunderstorms may generate bursts of extremely heavy rain with local amounts of between 25-50 millimetres in a few hours or less. Depending on the amount of rainfall, smaller creek systems could see a rapid rise in their water levels and develop some minor flooding issues.

There could also be some lightning, gusting winds and hail that come along with the thunderstorms.

Environment Canada has issued these warnings across most of Southern BC, from the east coast of Vancouver Island through to Elk Valley in the provinces southeast corner.

Mars out, skimmers in

One of the lasting images from the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park fire was the sight of the majestic Martin Mars water bomber.

It would swoop down onto Okanagan Lake, scoop up more than 27,000 litres of water, and return to work.

The Mars, much to the dismay of some, was not used on the Smith Creek fire and won't be used in any other fires this year or any other year.

In fact, a petition titled "Christy Clark: Contract the Martin Mars Waterbombers for five more year to protect BC," will be delivered to the premier's West Kelowna constituency office Thursday.

The petition, started a week ago, has more than 17,500 signatures.

"British Columbia is under severe attack from wildfires this season and West Kelowna, the scene of recent mass evacuations due to the terrible Smith Creek fire, has suffered most of all," says Chris Alemany, creator of the petition.

"If anyone should care about bringing back BC's most effective water bomber it should be the MLA for Westside-Kelowna and Premier of British Columbia."

The government did not renew the company's contract to provide the service in 2014.

In fact, while under contract from 2007 through 2013, the Mars, based out of Port Alberni and owned by
Wayne Coulson, went unused in both 2012 and 2013.

While under contract with the province it worked on just 17 fires.

"We have four amphibious skimmers, they are called Fire Bosses," says provincial wildfire management branch spokesperson, Navi Saini.

"It's a more modern plane and it's more versatile in that it can drop both retardant and water. It's more cost effective and more efficient to have these on board.

Saini says the Martin Mars was more limited in the types of fires it could fight and the bodies of water in which it could access.

"The new skimmers can take water from about 1,700 lakes where as the Martin Mars could only scoop water from 113.

And, because the new skimmers are four aircraft and not one we can break that group up. They can respond to four different fires or two can tackle two each."

She says it was a matter of modernizing the aircraft the province uses.

Click here to view the online petition.

Worker caused SkyTrain shutdown

The union representing SkyTrain workers is questioning the blame being cast on one of its suspended members following a five-hour service disruption for two rapid-transit lines in Metro Vancouver.

TransLink issued a news release Tuesday saying an electrician installing a new circuit breaker for the Evergreen Line one day earlier accidentally tripped the main breaker feeding the systems at SkyTrain's operations' centre.

The system-wide breakdown, which occurred twice in less than a week, disabled train controls and left thousands of commuters without service on the Millennium and Expo lines.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents 537 SkyTrain employees, reported a worker who was following directions was suspended after the cause was identified as human error. CUPE said the same consequence was not meted out to the worker's supervisor.

Louise Oetting, the union's national representative, said the panel being serviced was poorly designed.

"This problem, regarding the hazards and potential for failure, is well known by the employer and was raised on several occasions by our members," said Oetting. "This panel should not be worked on during SkyTrain operating hours. But they ignored this information.

"Now we have a situation where an individual has been suspended after being directed to work in an unsafe manner — and this public blame and suspension has occurred without a proper investigation having been completed."

Oetting said the union is conducting its own investigation of the shutdown and will be contacting WorkSafeBC.

The incident trapped many people in trains on the elevated tracks, and some pried open doors and walked along the narrow sidewalks.

The power outage also prevented TransLink from using the public address system to explain the situation to customers.

Doug Kelsey, TransLink's chief operating officer, said the trains are reliable 95 per cent of the time, but he knows that's little consolation for customers who were delayed for hours by a significant problem.

The Canadian Press

Woman tackles burglar

A feisty Vancouver Island woman is being applauded by Mounties for taking down a male burglar who broke into her home.

Nanaimo RCMP Const. Gary O'Brien says homeowner Jamie Fawcett is only five foot two, and the alleged thief was about six inches taller, but she tackled him anyway.

O'Brien says someone broke a window to get into Fawcett's home early Sunday, and while at first she thought her cat made the noise, she yelled when she saw the man.

Police say the woman chased after the man in her bare feet and even caught up to him, but he managed to get away.

When the man later showed up near Fawcett's home, police say she ran out and tackled him to the ground while a passerby came over to help her and called 911.

O'Brien says police don't generally advise people to take matters into their own hands, but officers who attended the scene were duly impressed with Fawcett.

The Canadian Press

No foul play at music festival

Foul play has been ruled out in the death of a Regina man at a music festival north of Vancouver.

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pound of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team says evidence found at the scene, witness statements and the results of an autopsy have determined that foul play was not a contributing factor in the 21-year-old man's death.

Nick Phongsavath was found dead in a tent on festival grounds last Friday, and police described the incident in Pemberton as suspicious.

Police did not immediately release any other details about Phongsavath's death.

His family released a statement through IHIT, saying they're grateful to police and representatives of the Pemberton Music Festival for supporting them.

Phongsavath was nearing the completion of a bachelor's degree in system software engineering at the University of Regina.

The Canadian Press

Highway re-opened

Update -- 11 a.m.

The road has been reopened in both directions.

Original story -- 8:30 a.m.

A serious crash has closed the Trans-Canada highway near Revelstoke.

The incident happened around 6:30 Tuesday morning, just east of the town.

The road is closed in both directions and is estimated to open by noon.

According to the Revelstoke RCMP detachment, a westbound semi-tractor trailer unit crashed into a roadside barrier and burst into flames.

Neither the driver or passenger was injured in the crash, but the fire spread to the trailer which contained some fertilizer. Diesel fuel also spilled onto the highway.

The Revelstoke Fire Department has contained the fire and the debris.

Traffic has been and will remain diverted through Revelstoke until the highway is cleared of the truck and all environmental concerns.

The hiking trail leading up to the Meadows of the Sky from Revelstoke has been blocked off due to the burning fertilizer.

Charges to the driver are pending further investigation from Trans Canada East Traffic Services.

Shooting suspect on the loose

Mounties are searching for a suspect after a man was shot in Surrey’s Cloverdale neighbourhood Monday afternoon.

The victim was shot at a home near 187 Street and 60 Avenue shortly after 4 p.m.

He was taken to Royal Columbian Hospital with undisclosed injuries, and is expected to survive.

No suspects have been arrested but Insp. Bruce Stewart said officers are trying to track down one person of interest in the shooting.

Anyone with information can contact the Surrey RCMP detachment.


Passengers leave stalled SkyTrains

For the second time in a week, passengers aboard two of Metro Vancouver's rapid-transit lines pried open the doors of stalled trains and walked along the system's narrow, elevated tracks.

TransLink spokeswoman Colleen Brennan says an electrical short at about 12:30 p.m. Monday sparked a power outage and forced cars on SkyTrain's Expo and Millennium lines to go down, affecting thousands of commuters

Transit Police spokeswoman Anne Drennan says passengers along the entire system pried open the trains' doors and walked along the tracks to nearby stations.

Drennan says even more people did so than during a similar shutdown four days ago.

She says Transit Police sympathize with frustrated passengers who are stuck inside stalled cars but points out the tracks carry an electrical charge of 600 volts.

Brennan says the Millennium line was down for just under four hours, while the Expo line was down for almost five hours.

The Canadian Press

Liquefied natural gas cleans air

Premier Christy Clark says British Columbia's proposed liquefied natural gas industry has the power to fight air pollution in China and clear up smog in Los Angeles.

The premier's natural gas development minister also boasted to delegates at the same conference on Monday that the LNG industry will clean up the provincial debt.

Clark told the Pacific Northwest Economic Region gathering, where business and government leaders from US states, provinces and territories gathered to address policy issues, that LNG will fight harmful greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, but it may also increase those same emissions in B.C.

"This is our biggest opportunity we've ever had to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide," Clark told a crowd in Whistler, B.C. "Studies have shown cleaner air in China means cleaner air here. Cleaner air in China means fewer smog days in Los Angeles."

She said China plans to reduce its energy dependency on coal and is looking to increase its use of natural gas by four per cent, which is not a large number, but is equivalent to all the greenhouse gas emissions in BC for a period of 18 months.

"The environment knows no borders," Clark said. "This is one world and we all share the air in it."

The premier said the Liberal government is banking on at least three LNG export plants operating in BC by 2020. The major export markets for B.C. LNG are China, South Korea and Japan.

Clark said five LNG plants have the potential of creating 100,000 jobs and the revenues could clear the province's debt, currently at more than $60 billion.

B.C. Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman downplayed comments by energy industry insiders who said many of the current LNG projects at the development stage in BC will not end up in production.

Coleman said there are more than a dozen plants in the works.

"If three went ahead we'd more than meet any commitment we made relative to debt-free BC and building a prosperity fund," said Coleman. "There are 16 (firms) now here, some small, some large, but the fact of the matter is they are all here and they are all saying they are competitive."

Clark told reporters following her keynote address that she remains committed to meeting BC's legislated greenhouse gas reduction targets of one-third less emissions by 2020, but the opportunity to cut emissions worldwide should not be rejected.

Environmental groups say Clark's plans to allow the proposed LNG plants to run on natural gas rather than electricity will increase greenhouse gas emissions at home.

"Technology is going to continue to catch up at reducing those emissions that we produce," Clark said. "In helping China, we are really helping ourselves in the long term. For BC to have the biggest chance we've ever had to clean up the world's air and decide we don't want to, I think is the wrong course."

Clark said the Pacific Northwest region, which includes Canada's North, the Prairie provinces, much of the US west coast and Idaho, Montana and Alaska, must bridge economic prosperity with environmental sustainability for the region to continue to prosper.

"I believe there's a new paradigm that's emerged that allows us to be able to do both at the same time," she said. "Circumstances compel us to do better, and find a way to combine economic growth and environmental protection and respect in a brand new way."

The Canadian Press

Murder charge laid in attack

A charge of second-degree murder has now been laid against a community leader in Surrey, BC.

Baldev Singh Kalsi is accused of the July 13 attack on his wife, Narider Kaur Kalsi.

She died Sunday, shortly after her family agreed to have her removed from life support.

The charge against the 66-year-old man was upgraded from attempted murder on Monday.

Baldev Kalsi was the president of the Gurdwara Sahib Brookside Sikh Temple in Surrey until he was charged last week and members voted to remove him from his position.

Kalsi remains in custody awaiting his next court date.

The Canadian Press

Lytton wildfire

Update -- July 21

The Botanie Road Fire was most recently mapped at 1,389 hectares, slightly smaller than yesterday, and is now 5 per cent contained.

There was a five person crew on the fire last night and it was also patrolled overnight. 

Monday brought 121 people back onsite, assisted by seven helicopters and eight pieces of heavy equipment. 

The cause of the fire is still unknown.

An evacuation order remains in place for 120 people within the Thompson Nicola Regional district. 

A public meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 22, at 2 p.m. at the Parish Hall in Lytton to provide information. 

Various agencies involved with the Botanie Creek Wildfire will be in attendance to provide information and answer questions regarding the wildfire.

The Parish Hall is located at 140-7th Street in Lytton.

Original Story -- July 20

The 15-square-kilometre fire near Lytton remains completely uncontained and the steep terrain is proving to be a concern for firefighters, said David Steeves of the BC Wildfire Management Centre.

The fire remains the same size it did Saturday, he said.

The blaze has forced out approximately 120 people from their homes.

There is no word on when they will be allowed to return.

Cooler weather and rainfall in parts of British Columbia have helped to quell wildfires across the province, but some areas in the southern and central interior are still facing an extreme danger rating.

Navi Saini, another spokeswoman for the fire management branch, says there were six new fire starts Saturday and one Sunday morning.

She says the weekend, though, has been "relatively quiet," so the department is hopeful the 151 active fires are diminishing in number and magnitude.

An extreme danger rating indicates a "very serious" fire risk where new fires start and spread easily.

Saini adds that in general, the danger rating across BC has dropped.

She says there are more than 1,300 firefighters working across the province.

The Canadian Press

Union wants more mediation

Both sides in British Columbia's ongoing teachers' dispute are talking about "mediation" but still remain far apart on key contract issues.

The province's roughly 40,000 public school educators walked off the job June 17, with the main issues in the dispute focused on wages and teaching conditions such as class size and the numbers of specialist teachers.

The BC Teachers' Federation and BC Public School Employers' Association approached B.C. Supreme Court Judge Stephen Kelleher at the end of June about stepping into the dispute as a mediator.

But after exploratory discussions' with both sides, he decided against proceeding any further as the independent third-party problem solver.

Jim Iker, president of the teachers' union, said he met with government negotiator Peter Cameron on Wednesday, the first time in two weeks.

"We're hoping that government will agree to go into mediation with us without any conditions from both sides," said Iker. "We want to get an agreement by the end of August."

He said mediation wasn't an option before because the union had to agree to a specific wage offer before a proposal for improvements to classroom conditions would be disclosed.

Iker said Kelleher has some time available in August to get the mediation process underway.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said in a statement that nothing has changed since Kelleher decided against proceeding as the mediator.

Fassbender said the union's executive would not commit to mediating a total compensation package that would fall in the same affordability zone as the other public sector agreements.

"Government wants to see a negotiated agreement but remains firm in its commitment to balance the budget and deal fairly with all 300,000 B.C. public sector workers," he said.

The Canadian Press

Man missing in rowboat

Rescue aircraft are back in the skies as another day of searching begins for a man last seen in a small rowboat off northern Vancouver Island.

A military Cormorant helicopter and a Buffalo rescue airplane have resumed the search grid about 225 kilometres north of Port Hardy, B.C.

They're looking for a man, who's over 70, who was attempting to row solo from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy.

The man has not been heard from since July 11 when he left Aristazabal (air-iss-TAZA'-bull) Island, along the B.C. coast east of the most southerly tip of Haida Gwaii.

In addition to the helicopter and search plane, a Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre official says two coast guard vessels are also at the scene.

The search began Saturday and boaters in the area who may have seen the solo rower since July 11 are urged to contact local RCMP or the Rescue Co-ordination Centre.

The Canadian Press

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