West Kelowna  

Deer spotted in West Kelowna yard with hammock wrapped around antlers

Oh deer, another Hammy?

Six years ago 'Hammy' the deer made headlines around the world after he was spotted wandering around Prince Rupert with a purple hammock wrapped around his antlers. Now, we could have an Okanagan Hammy on our hands.

A resident of West Kelowna’s Lakeview Heights shared a picture on Facebook of a deer that wandered into her yard on Monday with the remnants of a hammock tangled around its rack to such an extent part of its face was obscured.

“Hi everyone! We have a buck in the neighbourhood (Tomat area) that has a tangled mess of rope in his antlers. The COs have come to look at him and they’ve advised he will be just fine with this new fashion accessory until either the rope or the antlers fall off,” wrote the woman.

“He’s a little more jumpy than normal with the restricted vision but he’s eating, drinking and walking without trouble!”

She advised others in the community to contact the BC Conservation Officer Service if the buck gets hung up on anything because of his unwanted headgear.

Unfortunately, for the Lakeview Heights deer, he has become entangled right before the start of rutting season. In the case of Hammy, back in 2017, conservation officers ended up tranquilizing him and removing the tangle of purple rope because they were concerned he it might be dangerous if he butted heads with another buck.

At this time of year, deer start rubbing the velvet off their antlers, and that can lead to some sticky situations.

“They may become entangled in netting, anything loose as they’re trying to take the velvet off their antlers,” conservation officer Hailey Gooliaff told Castanet.

“This may cause them to be carrying around some extra netting in their antlers. Just be aware that they do lose their antlers every years, so it will fall off. As long as it’s not impacting their mobility or their capability to feed, they should be alright.”

Mortgage firm loses bid to be removed from complex West Kelowna lawsuit

Mortgage firm loses bid

A mortgage company has failed to extricate itself from a civil lawsuit involving a West Kelowna woman and the Public Guardian and Trustee of BC.

The woman, who Castanet is not naming due to her cognitive disability, filed a lawsuit last year over hundreds of thousands of dollars of loans she said she made to Vancouver actor and producer Jordan Ninkovich, who later declared bankruptcy.

The woman’s civil claim centred on mortgages she took out on her home, and a caveat that was supposed to be registered against the house she bought with settlement funds from a childhood traumatic brain injury.

That caveat would have required PGT’s consent to change the ownership or register a mortgage against the property.

Instead, the woman was able to take out numerous mortgages against her home and made five loans to Ninkovich totalling $398,810, who did not repay the woman. The woman then turned around and sued PGT.

In response, PGT filed third-party notices bringing Ninkovich, Chris Landry and Verico Paragon Mortgage Inc.—which is alleged to have secured the loans on Ninkovich's instructions—and Bonnie Baravalle, who was committee of the plaintiff's estate, into the lawsuit

According to a BC Supreme Court decision on Monday, Paragon tried to have the third-party notice against them struck on the basis that Landry was acting as an independent contractor of Paragon, so the firm should not be held vicariously liable.

“Paragon says, in the alternative, if Landry is found to have been an employee or agent of Paragon, then it met its duty to properly supervise Landry and any negligence on his part was unauthorized by Paragon,” the decision says.

Justice Ardith Walkem, however, said the evidence was too murky for her to determine the relationship between Paragon and Landry.

“I find it is not plain and obvious the third party claim against Paragon is bound to fail; and therefore, must be allowed to stand,” Walkem ruled.

In response to the original lawsuit, PGT argued the West Kelowna woman was capable of managing her financial affairs at the time the mortgages were taken out. The woman was formally declared capable in September 2017, although at that point, she had already taken out three of the five mortgages the suit mentions. PGT argued the plaintiff was a victim of fraud by Ninkovich, not their negligence.

In his response to the third-party notice, Ninkovich said the woman asked for his advice on investing the money, but that, “at no time did the plaintiff loan money to Ninkovich for his investments; if any moneys were paid by the plaintiff to Ninkovich, they were paid only as a convenience to facilitate an investment made by the plaintiff.”

Ninkovich filed for bankruptcy protection in 2019 and was discharged as a bankrupt on Nov. 25, 2020. In his response, he claimed the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act protects him from the legal action.

Ninkovich says that at no time did he tell the woman that real estate investments are 100 per cent secure and pose no risk to her, something the original lawsuit alleges.

He also claims that he was never told by the plaintiff or anyone else that the plaintiff suffered from a severe traumatic brain injury or that she was a vulnerable person with ongoing cognitive impairments.

He alleges the woman treated him in a "manipulative manner," threatening she would harm herself or kill herself if he did not date her or spend time with her. He also accuses the plaintiff of stalking him and continuing to threaten him, until told to stop by his bankruptcy trustee.

The lawsuit continues to make its way through the civil courts. The most recent filing on the case is by Ninkovich on Sept. 21, 2023, when he filed notice of change of his lawyer.

Police arrest Alberta prolific offender in West Kelowna

Alberta offender arrested

The RCMP have arrested an Alberta-based criminal well known to police.

Police say Gregory Deviat of Cochrane, Alta., was arrested in Kelowna on Sept. 20 after allegedly stealing a black Ford F-150 pickup truck and trailer and using it for criminal activity.

The truck was determined by police to have been stolen from Alberta, while the trailer was taken from a Kelowna residence overnight on September 15.

Several officers conducted surveillance on the pickup truck and trailer, which eventually stopped at a West Kelowna commercial location.

According to the RCMP, the lone occupant of the vehicle was taken into custody without incident.

RCMP say Deviat is the same man who prompted a shelter in place warning in Bow Ridge, Alta. on Sept. 11 after being seen leaving his house with a gun.

The man has several warrants and numerous charges pending out of Alberta and is supposed to be on 24-hour house arrest in Cochrane.

The matter remains under investigation as additional property located within the stolen trailer is also believed to be associated to recent local property theft, say police.

“The proactive enforcement teams remain vigilant and are strategically targeting those individuals responsible for our community’s property crimes," said Cpl. Guillaume Tanguay of the Kelowna Target Team.

Deviat remains behind bars.

Infamous, derelict houseboat finally being removed from Okanagan Lake

Infamous houseboat gone

The infamous houseboat that has been moored off of Bear Creek Provincial Campground for several years is finally being dismantled.

After rotting off the shore of the provincial park for years, it has been towed across the lake and is being taken apart in Kelowna. The boat took on water in 2020 and then ran aground in the park in 2021, sparking an effort from local politicians to have it removed.

"My residents will be pleased... I have had numerous complaints from my residents about that boat in particular," said Wayne Carson, RDCO Central Okanagan West director.

Carson said it was a "team effort" to get the houseboat moved.

"Our board has been on it for a number of years. We contacted Ben Stewart and [he] wrote several letters and lobbied on our behalf. Nobody wanted it there. It was amazing that it took the number of years to get something done, but it was in BC Parks' jurisdiction, and so we as a regional district didn't have any authority."

"It was going to be a provincial decision to get it done, and we are so thankful it has been done."

Carson says now that the houseboat has been moved, he imagines residents will shift their focus to a number of other boats in the area that have taken up moorage in recent years.

"The only one I don't get any complaints about is is the pirate ship," he said.

Castanet has reached out to the Ministry of Environment for comment.

Evacuation alerts lifted for all but one property around McDougall Creek fire

Evacuation alerts end

Evacuation alerts are being lifted from all remaining properties near the McDougall Creek wildfire, except for one address.

Central Okanagan Emergency Operations announced the decision, in consultation with the BC Wildfire Service, West Kelowna Fire Rescue and Regional District of Central Okanagan Fire Services.

The remaining evacuation orders were downgraded to alerts last week. Only property is still on order at 550 Westside Road, near Raymer Bay.

Last week the BC Wildfire Service declared the fire was being held and it was removed as a wildfire of note of Saturday. However, although cooler, wetter weather has arrived in the region, nearby communities should still expect to see smoke rising from within the fire’s perimeter for some time.

Crews continue to patrol the fire’s edge and move inward, extinguishing hot spots. Tree fallers are also deployed as part of the BC Wildfire Service teams. An area restriction order remains in effect until at least Oct. 3 for an area that includes Bear Creek Provincial Park.

The McDougall Creek wildfire was discovered on Aug. 15 and two days later, on Aug. 17 it blew up into an inferno, driven by strong winds. The fire swept north along Okanagan Lake before turning back south, destroying homes and other structures on close to 200 properties. At the height of the wildfire emergency people were forced to evacuate roughly 10,000 properties in and around West Kelowna.

Residents seeking wildfire recovery and support information, including the most up to date hours of operation, can visit the Resiliency Centre online here.

Hot spots cause anxiety for Traders Cove resident who plans to move to less fire-prone area

Hot spots cause anxiety

A woman who lives in the Traders Cove area says her family plans to move out of the community for the sake of their mental health.

Mel Walsh, her partner and their blended family of five kids moved from a property along Westside Road to a new rental on Traders Cove Road at the beginning of August. Just two weeks later, the McDougall Creek wildfire cut a swath through the community, leaving some homes untouched but reducing others to ash.

One of the properties that was destroyed was her old home on Westside Road. As she was driving by Monday morning she noticed smoke rising from the rubble of the home. She called it in and says a Wilson’s Landing firefighter just happened to be passing by and stopped to help deal with the hot spots.

The home she and her family currently rent survived the fire, but even going back after the evacuation order was lifted is causing anxiety. It’s the second time they have been forced to evacuate their home for weeks because of a wildfire.

Walsh lived in Fort McMurray in 2016 and was part of the largest wildfire evacuation operation in Alberta history. The place she rented in Fort McMurray survived, but all her possessions were destroyed by smoke.

“I never thought we would live through two 30 day evacuations,” said Walsh. The family is now contemplating a move back to Alberta, to somewhere not in a wildfire zone.

While they are able to clean most of their possession at her Traders Cove rental, she says the stark landscape that remains and the prospects of hot spots are just too close to home and her children are not taking it well. She is also experiencing survivor’s guilt.

She’s pondering writing a book about her experience with both fires. “I think it might be good therapy to get it all down.”

The BC Wildfire Service reminds the public that even though the McDougall Creek wildfire is now listed as being held and is no longer considered a wildfire of note, hot spots will likely be visible for some time.

“Even though it is cooler and wetter and the fire is being held (meaning that it is not likely to spread under the current conditions) but that being said, it is common with larger wildfires to see smoke within the perimeter going forward until there is significant rainfall or snow comes,” explained BCWS fire information officer Casda Thomas.

She says anyone who spots smoke outside the perimeter or in an area of concern should report it.

McDougall Creek fire no longer considered 'Wildfire of Note'

No longer 'Wildfire of Note'

One of the most destructive wildfires to hit the Okanagan is no longer considered a “Wildfire of Note.”

Saturday, the BC Wildfire Service removed the Wildfire of Note tag from the McDougall Creek fire on its online wildfire map, after the fire was considered “held” last Wednesday.

A fire is considered a Wildfire of Note if it is "especially visible or poses a threat to public safety."

The McDougall Creek wildfire was sparked in the hills above West Kelowna on Aug. 15. A small plume of smoke was barely visible from downtown Kelowna that afternoon, when it was less than a hectare in size. But strong winds from a passing cold front two days later caused the fire to grow rapidly.

In less than 48 hours, the fire had torn through a number of West Kelowna neighbourhoods, destroying homes on close to 200 properties and forcing the evacuation of roughly 10,000 properties.

While the strong winds had largely passed by Aug. 19, the fire continued to burn, causing many smoky days in the Okanagan. Fire crews have worked tirelessly for nearly six weeks to fully extinguish the blaze, which grew to a size of 13,970 hectares.

Last week, the BC Wildfire Service declared the fire as held, which means it's “not likely to spread beyond predetermined boundaries.” Additionally, evacuation orders for all remaining homes were also lifted Thursday.

While the threat from the fire has largely passed, there remains 82 firefighters on the fire, working to extinguish hot spots and demobilize equipment.

Rain has been falling in the area over the past couple days, but the fire continues to burn.

“Nearby communities can still expect to see smoke within the perimeter over the coming weeks,” the BCWS says. “This is common with large wildfires and will continue until significant rainfall or snowfall.”

The BCWS still has not stated the cause of the destructive fire, and it's still listed as “under investigation.”

An area restriction remains in place for most of the fire area. A map of the restricted area can be found here. Additionally, Rose Valley, Raymer Bay, Stephens Coyote Ridge and Traders Cove regional parks remain closed due to hazards left by the fire.

West Kelowna fire chief recruiting after whirlwind UN trip

Fire chief has whirlwind ride

If you had asked West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund what his life would be like two months ago, his answer would have been very different than it is today.

"It's not something that I ever expected would come out of this and it's not something that I'm looking for. I also never expected to be at the UN."

Brolund just returned from New York City where he was asked to address the Sustainable Development Goals Summit 2023 at the United Nations in New York.

Brolund says he got the chance to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he toured the McDougall Creek wildfire on Aug. 25.

"It was a request from the Prime Minister and, of course, I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to share the story," Brolund said.

Brolund could probably get elected for just about any public office he wanted in the Okanagan after receiving praise for how he communicated with the public during the McDougall Creek wildfire.

"The fact that Trudeau would come to our fire hall, or the Vancouver Canucks would come, or that I'd be at the United Nations, I mean, these are all things that you just don't think about, but they're all such boosts to our department and our community. You know, for me to be able to give that speech at the UN on the day that the evacuation orders and alerts are lifted, and the fire is declared 'held' in our community was a pretty neat bit of timing," Brolund said.

During his talk at the UN, Brolund emphasized the need to try and get ahead of wildfires as the climate changes.

"I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity to go on the world stage and speak to the challenge and say, you know, we need to be thinking bigger than we are today.

"I don't know that there is a number that's big enough. We get $200,000 a year now," he said, referring to wildfire mitigation funding.

"I could easily put a million dollars a year to work and that's five times what we get but we'll continue to make use of every single dollar."

The other unintended benefit is all of the exposure and goodwill should help this year's recruitment program.

"It's timely, we need people to start in January, to be ready for next year's wildfire season," says Brolund.

A recruitment information session is planned for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Glenrosa Firehall Station 34, 3399 Gates Road, if you're interested in learning more about what life as a firefighter looks like.

Landscape around Rose Valley reservoir left scarred by McDougall Creek fire

Landscape left scarred

The McDougall Creek wildfire is now considered “held” and all evacuees are able to return home. But the landscape above West Kelowna has been drastically changed.

The large fire was first discovered on Aug. 15, but strong winds from a passing cold front caused the blaze to explode in size on Aug. 17 and 18, destroying whole neighbourhoods in its path and forcing the evacuation of about 10,000 properties.

More than a month later, as temperatures fall and the days become shorter, the danger from the fire has largely subsided, but it's left a significant scar on many of the community's popular recreation areas.

Around the Rose Valley reservoir, where there's many hiking and biking trails, large patches of the forest are now charred, although some greenery appears to have avoided the flames.

The fire made its way right down to the water's edge in some areas, and also burned on both sides of some parts of the trail leading up to the reservoir.

With the fire being declared “held” last week, the City of West Kelowna says staff haven't had the opportunity to assess the Rose Valley reservoir area to determine long-term impacts.

While access to the reservoir is now open to the public, after the BC Wildfire Service reduced the size of its area restriction on Sept. 15, the Regional District of Central Okanagan's Rose Valley Regional Park, located on the east side of the reservoir, remains closed due to hazards left by the fire.

“Until those hazards are actually identified and addressed, the park will remain closed,” said Wayne Darlington, RDCO Park Planning & Capital Projects manager.

“Maybe at some point in time, we're hopeful we can get part of it open, but we'll have to see how things plays out here after these hazard assessments are completed.”

Additionally, Raymer Bay, Stephens Coyote Ridge and Traders Cove regional parks remain closed due to hazards left by the fire.

“Within our parks, what we're seeing right now for the most part is it's more of our natural areas that have been heavily impacted,” Darlington said.

“For instance, a lot of damaged trees as a result of fire, geotechnical hazards with rockfall, potentially hydrophobic soils, things like that that we need to look at. Our trails are also impacted as a result of that, minor damage to some signage.”

He noted that playgrounds, picnic shelters and washrooms at Traders Cove and Raymer Bay regional parks survived the fire.

Darlington says he has no estimated timeline of when these parks may be reopened to the public.

Jillian Harris releases second cookbook

New book by Jillian Harris

Jillian Harris has had an eventful summer.

Not only did she have to evacuate her West Kelowna farm because of the McDougall Lake wildfire, she’s also been busy promoting a new book.

Fraiche Food, Fuller Hearts is the follow up to Fraiche Food, Full Hearts, which Harris also co-wrote with fellow influencer, dietician and her cousin Tori Wesszer.

The recipes are “inspired by cozy memories of those sweet, simple days enjoying wholesome meals together with their large close-knit family,” says a synopsis from publisher Penguin Random House Canada.

The cookbook features beloved classics with a modern, often plant-forward twist “inspired by the smart hacks their moms and granny used to whip up memorable, easy-to-make meals.”

You’ll find recipes like Tropical Tofu Bowls, Carrot Cake Breakfast Cookies and Baked Crispy Cauliflower Sandwiches alongside Bear Bread and Lazy Daisy Cake.

Last month Harris posted a series of Instagram Stories about her experiences during the height of the McDougall Creek wildfire, talking about how she had to evacuate her home and watching as others lost theirs to the flames.

“Our beautiful little community here in the Okanagan and surrounding areas have experienced a tragic event and heartbreaking losses over the last week,” she wrote in an Aug. 25, 2023 post.

She went on to say, “Watching our community on fire is nothing short of tragic. Feelings of fear as the fire inches closer to your home, panic, helplessness, and then the aftermath of heartbreak and even guilt knowing many have lost their only home and ours was spared.”

She also encouraged her Instagram followers to help those impacted by the fires by donating to Mamas for Mamas. Harris is an ambassador for the Kelowna-based charitable organization.

The hardcover edition of Fraiche Food, Fuller Hearts retails for $45 and it’s currently #12 on Amazon Canada’s best sellers list for cookbooks, food & wine.

More West Kelowna News