Interior realtors donate $265K to Salvation Army for B.C. wildfire relief

$265K for wildfire relief

Realtors from across the Interior have donated more than a quarter of a million dollars toward B.C. wildfire relief efforts.

Association of Interior Realtors President Chelsea Mann turned over $265,000 to the Kamloops branch of the Salvation Army on Wednesday.

“We know that this does not even come close to what relief is needed, but we hope that this contribution will provide some much-needed support to all the communities impacted by these wildfires and the many lives of those living in them who require assistance at this heartbreaking time,” Mann said.

The Association of Interior Realtors is made up of more than 2,600 members across the region. According to Mann, many agents were directly impacted by the fires, including some who lost homes.


Kamloops council sees 'groundswell' of support for ambitious capital project plan

Support for Build Kamloops?

A Kamloops councillor says he’s seeing a “groundswell” of support for the city’s ambitious plan involving the development of new arts and culture, sports and recreation facilities — including a positive meeting with a provincial minister.

Coun. Kelly Hall led a discussion with Lana Popham, minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention on Thursday, talking about the city's Build Kamloops program, which aims to build a number of big-ticket capital projects in the coming years.

Hall said it was primarily an information session, but he also advised the minister the city is looking for partnerships with federal and provincial governments — as well as the private sector — to support the program.

He said the discussion with Popham was “very positive.”

“I think they understand if they want to see us continue to do the Tournament Capital of Canada [program], I think they'll come to the table with support and help us grow the facilities,” Hall said.

Hall said council discussed the need for development in Kamloops, especially as the community has outgrown its recreation facilities. He said if the city wants to continue attracting young families and professionals, these amenities will need to keep up.

Hall said they also advised the minister that as facilities are built, the city will seek to do so together with Tk’emlups te Secwepemc.

“They're going to be a part of our opportunities — as they should be,” Hall said.

He told Castanet Kamloops the Build Kamloops program is already attracting attention from potential partners outside of the provincial government, including major corporations.

“There is a bit of a groundswell, and I’m really excited about that,” he said.

Hall said the funding the city can get from federal or provincial sources will offset any kind of tax increase needed to fund facility construction. He added Kamloops residents should understand these amenities won’t be built all at once.

“They will need to be prioritized,” Hall said. “Is it the Performing Arts Centre that leads the way? Probably — but also let’s talk about the ice rinks, let’s talk about the other facilities.”

Coun. Stephen Karpuk said council received some positive feedback and “genuine interest” from the minister and her staff about Build Kamloops.

“We're really really happy. It was a group effort, the team was was very well put together, and I think our message was well received,” Karpuk said.

The councillor said more arts and culture amenities will help drive tourism. Visitors to Kamloops — like those who roll through town on the Rocky Mountain rail tours — should have more reasons to extend their stay.

“Maybe it's a downtown community Performing Arts Center, or other things. We need to have those amenities,” Karpuk said.

Coun. Katie Neustaeter said council was met with a “very warm reception” by the minister.

Popham and her staff were in Kamloops for the North American Indigenous Games bid, and have an understanding of what the city needs to be able to accommodate future large-scale events.

Kamloops was in competition with Calgary for the North American Indigenous Games bid, and Cowtown won — something Neustaeter said came down, in part, to the need for more accommodations in Kamloops.

“As we build these recreational facilities, we also have in mind the larger growth strategy for Kamloops. So we require hotels that can also support those things,” Neustaeter said.

Hall said the next step for the Build Kamloops program is to start up the four working groups which will involve members of the community and help drive the initiative. The call for volunteers has generated community interest, and applications are open until 4 p.m. on Friday.

House arrest for Kamloops man who refused to register as sex offender

House arrest for sex offender

A Kamloops sex offender who refused to check in last summer for his annual intake to the national sex offender registry has been ordered to spend the next two months on house arrest.

James Sweet, 38, pleaded guilty Thursday in Kamloops provincial court to one count of breaching a court order.

Court heard Sweet was sentenced in 2018 for a serious and violent sexual assault involving his former girlfriend. As part of his sentence, Sweet was ordered to register as a sex offender for 20 years.

After serving time in prison, Sweet registered as a sex offender as required in 2020 and 2021. He then failed to show up for his 2022 registration.

“He was supposed to register again, which would have been around July of 2022,” Crown prosecutor Evan Goulet said in court. “He did not register by the time he was supposed to.”

Goulet said a Mountie phoned and texted Sweet in August of 2022 reminding him about his obligation to register.

“About a week later, he replied and said he would not co-operate in the circumstances and that this was a joke, essentially,” he said.

Sweet did not register as a sex offender until late last month.

Kamloops provincial court Judge Marianne Armstrong went along with a joint submission for 60 days of house arrest, during which time Sweet will only be allowed to leave home to run errands, which he can do in two-hour windows three times each week.

Sweet will also be allowed to continue to work as a heavy-duty mechanic, but he will be barred from consuming drugs or alcohol and from visiting any bars or liquor stores.


Researchers say mule deer still affected by 2021 wildfires in Skeetchestn territory

Local deer stressed by fires

Researchers studying the effects of wildfires on mule deers are asking backcountry enthusiasts to be mindful of the declining and stressed deer population in Skeetchestn territory.

As access restrictions are lifted throughout Skeetchestn Territory two years after the Sparks Lake and Tremont Creek wildfires, researchers are raising concerns over the effects the public may have on the already vulnerable population of deer.

Shaun Freeman, senior wildfire and habitat biologist at Skeetchestn Natural Resources Corporation, said researchers have been analyzing deer droppings to study the effects of the wildfires, which burned 30 per cent of Skeetchestn territory and about half of the area's key deer winter range.

“It's the concentration of that fecal cortisol in the animal's poop that allows you to make some interpretation and say, ‘Yeah they were stressed’ or, ‘No they were baseline,’” Freeman said.

“We are being assisted by the Toronto Zoo. They are doing our analysis. So we send them a few coolers of poop every few months.”

Freeman said researchers were able to gather droppings immediately following the wildfires to measure stress levels before continuing collection throughout 2022 and into 2023, where they established a baseline.

“During that catastrophic event, right under the fire, that the stresses as identified from fecal cortisol was two to three times higher than baseline, and it was statistically significant, too,” he said.

Aside from a loss of vegetation from the wildfires, Freeman said the effects of the stress can also have physiological impacts on the declining dear population in the area.

“It's the same as humans or any other animal — if you're stressed you might not be spending the same time that you should be feeding, you're spending more energy because you're nervous, it reduces fecundity,” he said.

Freeman said the reduction of the mule deer’s winter range can also reduce their chance of survival during the severe winters following the wildfires, and the deer population is still recovering from the effects of the wildfire.

“So if you can avoid doing your activities, whether they be recreational or whatnot, in these key areas, please do,” he said.

Sarah Dickson-Hoyle, a researcher at UBC, said she’s been involved in habitat monitoring, looking at plant growth and identifying components of the mule deer’s diet.

“They've been eating things like juniper and poison ivy, or these plants that are not normally a key component of mule deer forage,” she said.

“That really points to the fact that they are stressed — they are limited in their typical food sources.”

Dickson-Hoyle said this means the deer won’t be getting the same micronutrients needed, and it can impact their health and fertility.

“If we all care about stewardship and sustainability of this ecosystem and of these populations, we need to be really mindful of how we're treading on this really sensitive landscape,” said Dickson-Hoyle.

Dickson Hoyle is an intern with Mitacs, a national organization that has partnered with the Secwepemcúl’ecw Restoration and Stewardship Society to support wildlife management and wildfire recovery work.

“My role is really about supporting the work that's being led by communities, they are setting the goals and priorities based on their values and I'm just providing some additional expertise,” she said.

She said the initiative highlights the importance of government to government processes for making joint decisions on how to manage ecological recovery.

Four B.C. firefighters who died in crash worked for Kamloops company

Fallen crew worked locally

The four British Columbia firefighters who died in a highway crash this week all worked for a Kamloops-based contractor, whose owner said they were "our family."

Aaron Duczak, owner of Tomahawk Ventures, said three of the men were Indigenous, and that all four were "irreplaceable."

The men died when their pickup collided head-on with a semi-truck on Highway 1 east of Cache Creek in the province's southern Interior early Tuesday morning.

Duczak said in a statement that the men's lives had been "tragically cut short."

RCMP say the initial investigation suggests a Ford F-350 pickup truck carrying the four men failed to navigate a bend in the highway and slammed into the semi travelling in the opposite direction.

Duczak said the company appreciates the public's support and concerns but is asking for privacy.

"The wildland firefighting community has lost four good ones and they are irreplaceable," he said.

Posts on social media accounts belonging to two men who worked for Tomahawk said they died on Tuesday.

The men were Xaxli'p First Nation member Kenneth Patrick and Sts’ailes First Nation member Blain Sonnenberg.

Xaxli'p First Nation Chief Darrell Bob said in an interview that Patrick was among the men who died, saying he was a hard-working man.

He asked that Patrick’s family be given privacy.

Billy Amanda LaRock, an executive assistant at the Sts’ailes First Nation, said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that friends and family would be gathering at the Sts’ailes elders log building to mourn Sonnenberg.

On Monday, Sonnenberg had posted a photo marking the end of a 14-day wildfire deployment.

“Well, our 14 days are done with this tour!! Off to the next,” he wrote, tagging Patrick to the picture.

Online posts also confirm 19-year-old Jaxon Billyboy also died in the crash.

“It was his first time in the bush. It was his first time in any job like that. He was all smiles, all hot to go, very quiet, you know, reserved. But he was the first to listen, the first to learn, the first to ask questions. It was such a blessing to teach him,” said Tomahawk team leader Josh Weisner told CTV News of Billyboy.

A B.C. government statement on Wednesday said the four men who died were heading home after aiding wildfire response efforts in the Vanderhoof area, west of Prince George.

Posts on Patrick’s Facebook page show videos of him and fellow Tomahawk firefighters.

He is seen joking with colleagues as they conduct controlled burns.

“Up in the heat with my bois smashing out these fires,” he wrote on Aug. 26.

Premier David Eby and Forests Minister Bruce Ralston issued a joint statement saying their hearts are broken by the deaths of the workers.

Their deaths bring to six the number of wildfire personnel who have died this season in the province.

In late July, 25-year-old Zak Muise died in a vehicle accident while fighting a massive fire in northern B.C.

Two weeks before that, 19-year-old Devyn Gale was killed by a falling tree near her hometown of Revelstoke.

with files from CTV Vancouver

Outdoor screening of The Princess Bride to raise funds for film society

Princess Bride movie night

Audiences will have the chance to watch the inconceivable 1987 classic The Princess Bride during an outdoor backlot movie screening this weekend hosted by the Kamloops Film Society.

The screening will take place Saturday at 354 Victoria St., in the parking lot behind the Tourism Kamloops information booth.

A concession manned by the Kamloops Film Society will open at 7 p.m., with the screening beginning at about 7:30 p.m.

Organizers say Masala Fusion Meats will be on site from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. for a pop-up barbecue event.

Downtown Kamloops said the event is by donation, with all proceeds directly going to the Kamloops Film Society.

The Society said the event is being hosted in partnership with Downtown Kamloops, Tourism Kamloops and Lee’s Music.

More information about the event is available online.

UBCM delegates endorse Kelowna, Kamloops resolution on funding mental health care

Call for mental health funds

Local government representatives at the Union of BC Municipalities convention put their support behind a resolution co-authored by the cities of Kamloops and Kelowna calling for more funding for mental health and substance use programs.

The joint resolution was one of a few endorsed by UBCM delegates on Wednesday focusing on mental health and addictions issues.

The resolution from Kamloops and Kelowna noted mental health and substance use programs — and associated funding — is necessary to meet the complex needs of many in B.C. communities.

The resolution directed the UBCM to lobby the province to increase investments into “on demand” mental health treatment, withdrawal management and substance use programs throughout the province.

“The lack of innovative models to treat patients with severe, complex mental health and substance misuse conditions has contributed to a health care and safety crisis in communities, urban and rural, throughout British Columbia,” the resolution said.

The resolution further asks the province to fund regional campuses of care, like the Red Fish Healing Centre in Coquitlam.

According to the centre’s website, the facility, located on former Riverview lands, has 105 beds to treat people from across the province with the most severe complex substance use and mental health services.

The co-authored resolution was endorsed without debate.

Province announces new bridge in Cache Creek to replace problem culvert, prevent flooding

New bridge to halt flooding?

The provincial government has unveiled plans for a new Highway 97 bridge in Cache Creek — a project that aims to help prevent flooding in the village 85 kilometres west of Kamloops.

Government officials have announced an open house for the project next month, at which more information is expected to be made public.

“The Highway 97 Cache Creek crossing restoration project will include the installation of a bridge to replace the culvert under Highway 97 where it crosses Cache Creek,” the province said in a statement.

“The bridge will be designed to handle peak river flows and debris, especially during the spring freshet. It will accommodate increases in peak water flows caused by climate change and will be built to ensure structural stability against erosion.”

Springtime flooding in Cache Creek has become a regular occurrence in recent years due to the culvert that passes beneath Highway 97. When waters rise, debris blocks the culvert and flooding occurs.

Most recently, flooding in the spring of this year caused significant damage to a number of structures.

The information session is slated to take place on Oct. 4, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Cache Creek Community Hall, 1270 Stage Rd.

Police looking for truck in connection to fatal 2021 hit and run in Dallas

Driver sought in fatal crash

Police have released a photo of a commercial tractor-trailer as part of an ongoing investigation into a fatal hit-and-run collision on the Trans-Canada Highway.

According to Mounties, the investigation began two years ago on Sep. 21, 2021, around 5:45 a.m. when Kamloops RCMP were called to westbound lanes on stretch of Highway 1 in Dallas.

Officers located a deceased man in his 20s who have been riding an ebike with a red flashing light on the back.

“Two years ago today, Jonathan Trosky was riding his bike to work when he was tragically and fatality struck by a vehicle on the side of the highway,” said Corporal Crystal Evelyn, Kamloops RCMP spokesperson.

“In recognition of the anniversary of his untimely death, we are releasing an image of a truck with the hope that someone will recognize it, the logo on its side, or recall driving it through Kamloops on the date of the collision, and contact police to help further the investigation."

The vehicle is described as a white Volvo semi truck pulling an Ocean trailer, and was observed at a service station near Kamloops on the date of the fatal collision.

Anyone with information about the vehicle is asked to contact Kamloops RCMP at 250-828-3000.

Kamloops council proposing dedicated facility for emergency response

Emergency hub proposed

Kamloops city council would like to see a dedicated facility for emergency support services established in the Tournament Capital, presenting a proposal to a provincial minister on Wednesday.

Council members met with Bowinn Ma, minister for emergency management and climate change readiness on Wednesday, pitching the idea of a dedicated regional support hub that would help serve evacuees.

Coun. Bill Sarai said dedicated volunteers are setting up at city facilities to provide emergency supports for longer periods of time than in past years given the frequency and severity of events like wildfires and floods.

“It's unfortunate, we're really good at emergency evacuations, we're good at intake, we're good at getting people houses and fed,” Sarai said.

“What we're saying is maybe we need a year-round facility that isn't a sports centre, that isn't a yacht club.”

Sarai said the city will provide these facilities when there’s a need, but the buildings aren’t meant for emergency shelter and intake.

He said council is envisioning a provincially funded facility which would be a space for evacuee intake, noting a dedicated building would also serve for better volunteer training.

“They know the layout, so they don’t walk in and have to set up, and not knowing what goes were, where’s the equipment, what truck is bringing this in — it’s already ready to go,” Sarai said.

The councillor said Kamloops is already a regional hub, so the city would be a natural fit for such a facility.

“Kamloops is such a welcoming community for everything. We always think sports and Music in the Park — we're also ready to help our neighbours,” he said.

“Whether they're in Merritt, Barriere, Williams Lake, we're never going to step away and turn our backs on any of them.”

Coun. Dale Bass said the proposal for a dedicated emergency support facility was brought to the province years ago, but it’s now been resubmitted to the new ministry.

“They were really intrigued by the whole idea," she said. "Bowinn said no money, but that might not stop me, so let's talk about it more."

Bass said since original conversations about the facility happened with Emergency Management B.C., climate change has “dramatically” impacted the reality of emergency response, and increased the potential for such a building to be used year-round.

Bass said it seemed Ma wanted to run with the idea.

“She said that she had been talking with Eby about that, anyhow, the fact that they have to change the way they approach how hubs like us, who take in thousands of people every summer now, deal with it,” Bass said.

This summer, the province partnered with Tk’emlups te Secewpemc to set up a camp for up to 300 wildfire evacuees in Rayleigh. The camp eventually housed people who had to evacuate from the Bush Creek East wildfire in the Shuswap area.

Bass said staff will be working to make headway on the proposal, noting the city will be proactive to ensure it moves forward.

She said the ministry wants to see the city work with Tk'emlups and the Thompson-Nicola Regional District to ensure the facility would be a true regional hub.

Sarai said the minister has asked the city to help identify some sites, “and we’ll go from there.”

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