Saturday, August 29th18.1°C
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Smoke still hangs in Valley

A smoky skies advisory remains in effect for the entire Okanagan, however residents in Vernon and Penticton are reporting an increase in haze from burning forest fires.

In the North Okanagan, the air quality health index is at a six, which means there is a moderate health risk and residents should consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors.

While in the South Okanagan, the air quality health index is currently at a five, which is considered a moderate health risk.

In Kelowna, the haze has lifted somewhat from the area, producing an orange sunset.

The Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with the Interior Health Authority, issued a smoky skies advisory for the Southern Interior and Kootenay regions earlier this week, and it remains in effect.

Southerly winds have continued to push heavy plumes of smoke from the large wildfires burning in Washington state, resulting in high concentrations of fine particulates and poor air quality. Local forest fires are adding to the situation.

While this episode is expected to persist until a major shift in wind patterns and weather conditions, smoke concentrations will vary widely as winds, fire behaviour and temperatures change.

There is a risk of a thunderstorm in the North, Central and South Okanagan on Saturday that may bring a change in the wind pattern as well as precipitation to the region.



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Fire forces man out window

A Coquitlam, resident had to leap from a window at his bungalow to escape what RCMP are calling a suspicious fire.

The blaze broke out at around 3 a.m. at a home on the city's west side.

As the homeowner tried to get out, he realized fires were burning at both the front and back doors.

The unidentified man was already on the phone with emergency dispatchers who told him to jump from a window, and he and his dog were able to make it out unharmed.

He was safely out by the time firefighters arrived and battled the blaze, which charred the front and back of the house and also moved into the attic.

Police are continuing to investigate and haven't said if the incident was targeted or random.

The Canadian Press


Proactive power protection

Power in Rock Creek is now permanently restored. However, nearby communities could go dark as fires in Washington state loom closer to the border.

Nicole Bogdanovic with FortisBC says crews are working proactively to address potential fire impacts in the Grand Forks, Christina Lake area.

"FortisBC completed the rebuilding of the fire-damaged 10 kilometre main line between Rock Creek and Westbridge one week ahead of schedule,” she says. "This restored permanent power to the areas of Christian Valley, Beaverdell and Carmi after residents spent seven days on temporary diesel-generated power.”

Power is now also available to all properties between Rock Creek and Westbridge.

"We rebuilt and re-energized all of the secondary lines as of Aug. 28 and continue to work with individual property owners to safely restore power to each premise,” Bogdanovic explains.

"Any customers still without electricity are asked to call our customer service team so we can work with them to rebuild their service. Crews will be in the area over the coming weeks to complete final clean-up tasks.”

The utility company is monitoring the Stickpin fire in Washington, which could impact power infrastructure if it crosses the border.

"We’ve assessed all of these assets for risks and are taking steps to put protection measures in place where possible. This includes clearing vegetation around natural gas and electric substations and electric poles, covering valve systems with protective thermal blankets and having fire suppression equipment at the ready.”

Alternative service routes have been mapped out to minimize possible service disruptions should a fire damage the natural gas or electric systems, says Bogdanovic.

"For our natural gas system, we stepped up completion of a planned upgrade to the gas transmission line between Grand Forks to Midway to make sure service is available from an alternate source. For our electrical service, we have alternate service routes planned and a diesel-generating unit on standby."

If fire damage does occur, operations and construction crews have developed plans in advance for restoration. Bogdanovic says upwards of 20 crews are available to assist, if necessary.





Site C stop-work denied

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has refused to issue a stop-work order to a pair of First Nations opposing construction of the Site C hydroelectric dam.

The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations sought an injunction against BC Hydro, saying they were not properly consulted before permits were granted for the project on the Peace River.

The First Nations say it's still significant that the utility promised in court not to act on permits allowing clear-cutting of old-growth forest in some areas.

West Moberly Chief Roland Willson says in a news release that legal action was taken specifically to gain protection for eagles' nests and beaver dams.

BC Hydro argued this month that an injunction would cost upwards of half a billion dollars and delay the project by at least a year.

Project spokesman David Conway declined comment, noting both sides are scheduled to appear in court again in November for a judicial review of the Site C permits.

The Canadian Press


Barge spills scrap in Gorge

A scrap-hauling barge has dumped up to 50 junked cars into Victoria's Gorge waterway.

CTV reports the barge, carrying hundreds of scrap cars for recycling, tipped over, spilling part of its load.

Witnesses say as many as 50 of the wrecks fell into the water about 3 p.m..

No one was injured in the mishap, police say.

Victoria police, fire and Transport Canada personnel responded with boat crews to the scene.

The cause of the spill has yet to be determined, but booms have been placed in the water to contain any oil or other pollutants that could leak from the vehicles.

Police closed down the Selkirk walkway that runs alongside the water as a precaution.

– with files from CTV News



HikeFest in the sky

The scenic Sea to Sky Gondola, one hour north of Vancouver, opened in May 2014 and offered its first HikeFest celebration last fall.

On Sept. 13, the second edition will take place, with free guided hikes, backcountry information sessions and expanded kids activities.

There will also be a trail running session at the summit, as well as special pricing for the attraction's Via Ferrata, a climbing adventure that opened in June.

The gondola climbs to mountain terrain over 885 metres above sea level in 10 minutes. At the top, there is access to eight main hiking trails of varying difficulty.

The Canadian Press


Teacher hit with sex crime

A man who taught at a North Vancouver high school has been arrested in connection with sexually assaulting a female student.

RCMP in North Vancouver allege that from October 2012 to December 2014 a 39-year-old male teacher sexually assaulted a student.

Chad Jeremy Smith of Langley was arrested on Thursday and is charged with one count of sexual exploitation – a charge that applies to authority figures who sexually assault a minor.

Smith has been released from custody with conditions and is scheduled to appear in North Vancouver court on Sept. 9.



Jet-ski victims identified

UPDATE: 2:30 p.m.

The B.C. Coroners Service has confirmed the identities of two men who died after a jet-ski incident near Richmond on Thursday.

They were Ramanjit Bachra, aged 56, and Salinder Burmy, also aged 56, both of Richmond.


UPDATE: 9 a.m.

Richmond RCMP confirm two men pulled from the Fraser River have died.

Police responded to a report from a commercial vessel of a jet ski adrift Thursday night. Two unconscious people were floating in the river.

A Canadian Coast Guard hovercraft was deployed and both men were recovered and brought to shore near No. 4 Road and the Fraser River dyke, says Richmond RCMP Cpl. Dennis Hwang.

B.C. Ambulance Service and Richmond Fire Rescue attended, but despite their best efforts, both men were deceased at the scene.

The two riders sustained severe head injuries. Both were wearing their life jackets.

The men were both their 50s. Their identities are not being released pending notification of next of kin. 

Lighting conditions and speed are being considered as contributing factors at this point. Foul play is not suspected.

The RCMP and the B.C. Coroner's Service continue to investigate the incident.


ORIGINAL

Two men have been pulled unresponsive from the water near the near the mouth of the Fraser River off Richmond.

Rescuers rushed to the area at about 9 p.m. Thursday night after a tug operator spotted two people in the water.

A jet ski was also found nearby.

Crews aboard the coast guard hovercraft pulled the two men out of the water shortly after arriving at the scene.

The condition of the victims has not been confirmed.

Richmond RCMP aren't releasing any further details about the accident. 

The Canadian Press


Fires' fate weather driven

Weather will determine how the major fires in Southern B.C. behave tonight.

After rapid fire growth on the Little White Mountain fire Thursday, cooler temperatures and precipitation have slowed its growth.

There is one helicopter attacking the blaze today, along with 33 personnel shared between that fire and the small Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park fire, according to Melissa Klassen, fire information officer. 

There is concern stronger winds may cause an increase in fire activity later in the afternoon.

The Little White Mountain fire is approximately 120 hectares in size and is 15 to 20 kilometres from any buildings.

In the South Okanagan, the Testalinden Creek fire is 60 per cent contained and burning approximately seven kilometres south of Oliver.

Winds out of the south have pushed the fire to the head of Tinhorn Creek, west of Oliver.

Due to this growth, an expansion of the evacuation alert was issued Thursday, and now includes 285 homes.

There are currently 11 helicopters and 204 ground personnel working to increase containment on the blaze.

The Stickpin fire in Washington state has been blanketed in smoke today, providing better conditions for fire crews with lower temperatures and higher humidity. 

Strong winds forecast in the area never showed up Thursday night, but 40 km/h winds with gusts up to 70 km/h are expected this evening, according to fire information officer Heather Rice. 

The Stickpin fire did see a little rain this morning, but Rice said it wasn't enough to impact the fire.

Rain is forecast for most of the Okanagan, which should aid firefighting efforts across the multiple fires in the region. There is also a chance of thunderstorms, which could spark new fires, if the ground stays dry.

After heavy smoke in the valley from the Washington fires all but disappeared Thursday, the smoke is back in the Central Okanagan, albeit far less pronounced than it was at its peak. 

Grand Forks and other more southern B.C. communities are fully blanketed in heavy smoke.



Coastal campfire ban over

A soggy weekend lies ahead for campers in on the south coast of British Columbia, but at least they can huddle around a campfire to keep warm.

The BC Wildfire Service has rescinded a campfire ban for the region, which covers a large area including Vancouver Island, Whistler-Pemberton and the Lower Mainland east to Hope.

Campfires have been allowed in specific areas of the centre for several weeks, but cool, wet weather over the next few days means campfires can now be permitted across the entire fire centre.

Bans remain in place in the Kamloops and Southeast fire centres, which are not due to receive much rain from a storm forecast to drop 120 millimetres of rain on the south coast by Monday.

No burning restrictions are currently in place in the Northwest and Prince George fire centres, while campfires are allowed in specific zones of the Cariboo Fire Centre, where open fires remain banned.

The Canadian Press


Pushed out for saving cubs

A conservation officer who defied his bosses and refused to euthanize two orphaned bear cubs is being pushed out of his job, but he's not being fired.

A release from the BC Government and Service Employees Union, which represents provincial government workers, says Bryce Casavant has been told he will be transferred out of the Conservation Officer Service as a disciplinary measure.

BCGEU president Stephanie Smith says the union is filing a grievance against the transfer, in addition to the grievance already filed over Casavant's original suspension in July.

The union intends to take both issues to arbitration, although a hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Casavant won the hearts of animal-lovers, but ran afoul of senior officials in the conservation service, when he ignored orders to shoot two very young cubs after their mother was destroyed for repeatedly raiding homes near Port Hardy, B.C.

Instead, Casavant sent the two cubs to a wildlife refuge to have them assessed for rehabilitation, actions his union says represent the highest ideals of the Conservation Officer Service, whose motto is Integrity, Service and Protection.

The Canadian Press


Rain for coast, drips inland

For the first time in months, several days of heavy rain will drench B.C.'s South Coast.

A powerful storm is forecast to dump as much as 120 millimetres of rain over Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Howe Sound, Whistler, the Sunshine Coast and most of Vancouver Island.

Two jet streams, one from the north, the other from the south, are pumping moisture into one nasty, late summer storm which arrived just after midnight, Friday, and should move through the region by Monday.

The heaviest downpours are expected Saturday, and Environment Canada warns drought-hardened soil may not be able to absorb all the moisture, raising the risk of flash floods.

As much as 30 mm of rain is also forecast for mountainous regions of the Interior over the weekend, but badly-needed precipitation is not expected in wildfire-plagued areas of southeastern B.C., or in the parched Central Interior.

Instead, strong winds are forecast there, increasing the risk of wildfires, but clearing the choking smoke that has hovered over much of the southern part of the province as massive forest fires burn in Washington state.

The Canadian Press


Fire crews brace for wind

About 1,600 people in southern British Columbia remain on evacuation alert as fire crews brace for winds to carry in trouble from wildfires in neighbouring Washington state.

Fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek says Grand Forks and Christina Lake residents could be asked to leave at a moment's notice if winds blow embers from the 195-square-kilometre Stickpin blaze across the border into B.C.

That fire is burning about five kilometres south of the border, where 48 firefighters, three officers and four pieces of heavy machinery from B.C. are helping to fight the fires.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has expanded its evacuation alert to now cover 285 homes or properties due to the potential impact of increased winds on the Testalinden Creek Wildfire.

Fire information officer Melissa Klassen says the six-hectare blaze in Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park south of Kelowna is contained but the 150-hectare Little White Mountain fire is not contained, although no structures are threatened.

Rain expected this weekend could help fight the wildfires, and Skrepnek says rainfall warnings may even cover areas such as Vancouver Island and the south coast.

Skrepnek says the province has spent $244 million fighting 1,744 wildfires this year.

The Canadian Press


Good Samaritan shot at

One man is recovering from injuries and Mounties in Surrey are trying to sort out all the details after an early morning assault, followed by gunfire.

Surrey RCMP say the incident began around midnight in the Whalley neighbourhood (at 113B Avenue and 132 Street.)

They were called to the scene by a man who reported seeing a second man being assaulted by several people, but the attackers fled when the first man intervened.

The Good Samaritan also reported that someone shot at him from a vehicle that had arrived to pick up the injured victim, but the suspect vehicle sped away.

No one was injured in the shooting, and officers located the car not far away, arrested three people and took the injured man to hospital for treatment.

Police say they are still trying to determine how the three are linked, if there is a connection to the Good Samaritan, why the shot was fired and what led to the original assault.

The Canadian Press


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