Air support hitting wildfire burning above Highway 97C west of Peachland

Air support on wildfire

UPDATE 12:20 p.m.

Major air support continues to hit the Pigeon Creek wildfire west of Peachland.

A helicopter is now bucketing the fire, joining a full skimmer team from Kamloops and tanker aircraft that are taking laps of the fire from their base in Penticton.

The cause of the fire is now listed as under investigation.

While the fire is very visible from Highway 97C, it is not impacting motorists.

The BC Wildfire Service says the blaze is not threatening homes.

UPDATE 11:05 a.m.

BC Wildfire Service aircraft are now hitting a fire burning west of Peachland.

A skimmer team from Kamloops and tankers from Penticton have been over the fire this morning.

The BC Wildfire Service says the blaze, which they have named the Pigeon Creek wildfire, is now estimated at five hectares in size.

It is burning in steep terrain and is “influenced by gusting winds.”

A BC Wildfire spokesperson says they are using significant air support because of how difficult it is to reach the fire on foot. There are eight ground crew members at the scene.

“This wildfire and aerial response will be highly visible to travellers along Highway 97C," BCWS said online.

UPDATE 10:30 a.m.

A small wildfire burning above the Okanagan Connector west of Peachland is burning more vigorously.

Nearby residents say the fire has grown this morning as winds increased.

The BC Wildfire Service now says its next update should be ready at around 11 a.m.

Castanet has a reporter headed to the area today.

UPDATE: 8:39 a.m.

BC Wildfire crews are on the scene of a small wildfire burning off the Okanagan Connector at Pigeon Creek, west of Peachland Monday morning.

BC Wildfire spokesperson Aydan Coray tells Castanet there are eight firefighting personnel working the blaze and they are being supported by one water tender.

"The fire at last check last night was .15 hectares after more accurate mapping," she said.

Coray says she hopes to have a better idea of the fire behaviour by 10 a.m. No structures are at risk.

The fire is located 6.5 kilometres west of Peachland, and is "highly visible from Highway 97C."

ORIGINAL 7:35 a.m.

A small wildfire off the Okanagan Connector continues to burn this morning at Pigeon Creek, west of Peachland.

Residents say they can see trees burning this morning south of the Paradise Valley U-turn on Highway 97C.

As of Sunday night, the BC Wildfire Service said the fire had burned approximately 0.2 hectares.

A four-man crew was expected to join initial firefighters on site overnight.

No structures are at risk.

The fire is located 6.5 kilometres west of Peachland, and "highly visible from Highway 97C," BCWS said.

It is burning on the slopes of Lookout Mountain, south of Highway 97C and directly across from the Upper Trepanier neighbourhood.

Further updates are expected later this morning.


Resident sues District of Peachland over falling rock

District sued over rock fall

A Peachland resident is suing the District of Peachland, along with a development company and others, after a large boulder came tumbling into her backyard in January.

In the civil suit filed last week, Elizabeth Mathuik says a large boulder fell from a rock wall behind her property on Trepanier Bench Road and landed in her backyard on Jan. 8, 2023. She had purchased the home, at the Island View Villas development, in September 2019.

In April of this year, Mathuik says an engineering company assessed the rock wall and told her it was unsafe and “needed to be remedied.” Mathuik did not disclose the estimated cost of the remediation work.

In her suit, Malthuik says the District of Peachland was negligent by not addressing the danger posed by the rock face. She says the District “knew or ought to have known the rock face was unsafe.”

As a condition of issuing the development permit to Okanagan Island View Villas Ltd. back in 2003, the District of Peachland required the developer to proceed in accordance with a geotechnical report.

The property was developed and sold, save for two lots that neighbour Mathuik's property. Mathuik says the two neighbouring lots were kept vacant “due to concerns about the stability of the rock face.”

She says a second report was created in 2012 that found the developer did not follow the requirements from the 2003 report with regards to the rock face.

She says the second report found the excavation into the rock face was “too steep and unstable” and “the necessary rock bolting, benches and other mechanisms to stabilize the rock face were not incorporated.”

Then, in 2016, Rock Glen Consulting issued a letter to the owners at the development, advising them “there was a high likelihood that blocks from the rock face were likely to fall and could impact the property,” according to Malthuik.

In November 2018, the District of Peachland issued a remedial action requirement to the developer, to erect a fence around the two vacant lots next to Malthuik's property, “due to the unsafe conditions.” But no requirement was made with respect to Malthuik's property.

“The District owed a duty of care to the prospective owners of the property, including the plaintiff, to issue a remedial action requirement that adequately addressed the unsafe conditions presented by the rock face,” Malthuik claims.

The District has not yet filed a formal response to the suit, and Peachland's Communications Coordinator Kirsten Jones told Castanet the District will not comment on legal matters.

In addition to naming the District of Peachland as a defendent, Malthuik also named the developer, Okanagan Island View Villas, the previous owner of the property, and the selling real estate agent as defendants in the case.

She says the developer was negligent in the design and construction of the rock face. She blames the realtor and previous owner for not disclosing the risk posed to the property during the sale and says they “knew or ought to have known that the collapse risk exists and the collapse risk rendered the property unfit for habitation and/or inherently dangerous.”

None of the defendants has filed formal responses to Malthuik's lawsuit at this time.

Fire department says occupants of abandoned Peachland boat paddled to safety

Boat partially submerged

The occupants of a boat abandoned on the shore of Okanagan Lake in Peachland paddled themselves to safety on Monday night.

A local resident reached out to Castanet after he became concerned about the safety of the occupants of the abandoned boat near the Ray Kondola Heritage Pier.

Stuart Mennie says he noticed red and blue lights and activity along the waterfront late Monday night, and noticed the boat washed up on shore Tuesday morning.

"It's half submerged. It's got personal belongings floating around paddles and igloo coolers and life jackets and stuff," he said.

The Peachland Fire Department responded to a report of a vessel in distress Monday night at 9:30 p.m. and by the time they arrived on the scene, the occupants of the boat had managed to paddle to shore.

"We did assist all the occupants to shore, nobody was injured, just a little wet and cold. We've secured the boat in the position that it was found. We didn't want to risk causing any environmental damage in case the boat broke apart trying to get it off the rocks," said Peachland Fire Chief Dennis Craig.

The boat remains where it was left but Chief Craig says they have added sock booms around the boat to prevent any garbage, debris or leaking fluids from spreading into the lake.

"It is the owner's responsibility to work with the province to remove the vessel," Craig said

The fire department will continue to monitor the situation and the boat does not appear to be leaking any oil or other fluids at this time.

"We'll continue to support the ministry environment with any of their needs or requests," Craig added.


Peachland council hosting community BBQ next month

Council to host BBQ

Peachland mayor and council are hosting an open house and BBQ next month.

Scheduled for the Peachland Community Centre on June 8, 5 to 8 p.m., the first-of-its-kind event will aim to bring together the community to let residents know what the municipality is working on.

The event will feature an address by Mayor VanMinsel at 6:30 p.m. Attendees can take in the displays of information from the district’s finance, planning, engineering, public works and recreation departments, as well as Peachland Fire Rescue. Partners including the Regional District of Central Okanagan, WildSafe BC and the Okanagan Regional Library will also participate.

There will be activities for all ages including a bouncy house, an obstacle course and axe throwing. Attendees can enjoy free burgers and hot dogs, prepared through volunteer support of the Peachland Rotary and Lions Clubs.

There will be door prizes including a lunch and tour with the mayor, a beach day in Peachland and gym and recreation passes and free popcorn and giveaways for everyone.

Plan to grant $750K to Peachland Hub project delayed

Hub funding plan delayed

A proposal to offer financial help to a non-profit building project in Peachland is having trouble getting off the ground.

Coun. Randey Brophy’s motion to contribute $750,000 to the Peachland Hub project was delayed again at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Brophy first brought up the idea in early April. A formal motion has been delayed at each subsequent meeting.

The idea is to take money from a $2.7 million provincial grant for the project.

Peachland received the provincial cash almost two months ago and put it in the bank, while waiting for the province to outline its conditions for using the money.

The $15-million hub would house non-profit groups, including the seniors centre and food bank. The municipality will supply the land. A fundraising campaign is ongoing. On a website, the groups say they plan to raise $10.8 million from grants, $3.56 million from donations, and $900,000 from raffles and other events.

In planning his motion, Brophy had said the society needs the money soon, but on Tuesday he said the society couldn’t say yet exactly what the donation would be used for. Therefore, it would be impossible to say if it would meet the provincial conditions.

So, the motion to make the donation was put off again.

Also at council, Mayor Patrick Van Minsel announced council will host a community barbecue June 8 from 5-8 p.m. at the community centre. The mayor will speak at 6:30 p.m.

Peachland seniors housing at centre of BC Housing parking dispute sent to public hearing

Parking spat goes to public

A dispute between Peachland and BC Housing over the lack of parking for a proposed seniors complex will be taken to the public.

BC Housing and the Peachland Seniors' Support Society are proposing to build a 73-unit seniors complex on 6th Street behind a seniors building they completed in 2019.

The new building will be a mirror image of the existing building, council heard at its regular Tuesday meeting.

The lack of parking is the most contentious point of dispute between the developer and the municipality, but not the only one.

Zoning amendments are needed for the project to proceed. Council agreed to give first and second readings to the rezoning application. That will send the proposal to a public hearing, but objections can still be raised at the third-reading stage.

“We can discuss more details at third reading,” said Mayor Patrick Van Minsel. “We just give it first and second reading, bring it to the public, let’s hear what they have to say, and then at third, we go into the nitty-gritty and the details.”

Coun. Terry Condon said council had just received correspondence from BC Housing and the Ministry of Housing they need more time to consider.

BC Housing has said on-site parking is not financially possible for the non-profit project and suggested the municipality close tiny 5th Street to create parking for the complex.

The provincial agency, in a recent letter and appearance before council, also indicated the project is at risk if differences aren’t resolved soon.

BC Housing wants the municipality to waive its fees for the project, and said in a letter that council agreed to that earlier.

“BC Housing funding for Phase 1 of the project was conditional on the District’s acceptance of a 60-year lease term waiver of DCCs and planning fees,” its letter to council said. “Council supported these conditions and the building was completed in March 2019. In February 2020, Council resolved to support a second phase of seniors housing, with the same conditions applicable to Phase 1.

“In winter of 2023, the District notified BC Housing that its support may be contingent on two new conditions: 1. That the project be required to pay DCCs and Planning fees. 2. That the project be required to be redesigned for an on-site parkade, or pay $1.5 million to the district in lieu.”

BC Housing has offered to pay half the DCC and planning fees, in exchange for getting a complete break on the parking requirements.

“Staff do not support the proposal to close 5th Street nor to dedicate public parking spaces to PSSS residents,” a report to council said.

Darin Schaal, Peachland’s director of planning and development services, said closing the road wouldn’t matter anyway.

“There are other options. Instead of closing the road, you could simply, if council wanted, you could vary the parking requirements.

“The preference from staff’s perspective would be don’t make the same mistake as Phase 1, let’s get parking on site,” Schaal said.

Public parking spaces shouldn’t be given away, he added.

“The 5th Street parking area, these are the public parking areas on 5th Street, are not surplus to the needs of the community,” he said.

Peachland wants developer to scale back Renfrew Road project

Council seeks less density

Peachland will try to convince a developer to reduce the size of a subdivision planned for a narrow, rural road.

A 72-unit subdivision is proposed for two properties covering 18.1 acres on Renfrew Road, near Hardy Falls.

Peachland councillors on Tuesday praised the variety of housing and the developer’s willingness to meet conditions requested by council, which included a late $100,000 contribution for improvements to local roads.

But concerns expressed by residents at a recent public hearing about increased traffic were too strong to ignore.

Mayor Patrick Van Minsel suggested council could call for the development to be reduced to 60 units.

Councillors generally liked his idea, but the mayor was advised the municipality will need to talk to the developer.

“There’s a way that we can work this out,” Van Minsel said, after council voted to delay third reading.

Council previously heard the developer will pay to bring a sewer line to the area, pave a portion of Thorne Road and pay for water main improvements. Speed sign boards for nearby Highway 97 will also be offered to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

“The developer did address quite a few of the items brought up by people,” said Coun. Rick Ingram.

Coun. Keith Thom said he supported the proposal as a way to get the improvements council wants to Renfrew Road and the intersection with Highway 97.

“I’ve long held the opinion that MOTI highway improvements will never come unless we have development, so it’s nice to see development coming.”

Thom also praised the variety of housing in the project.

“One of the reasons I embrace this particular development is the diversity of housing options that will serve the needs of a wide range of people,” he said. “Not just people with a million and half to spend on a nice home, but people who want to start in a town home or perhaps even in a rental unit.”

The project is to include 32 townhomes, “six orchard cottage homes, 13 neighbourhood hillside homes, 17 executive hillside homes” and “four executive lakeview homes,” according to an earlier presentation.

But Coun. David Collins said a stronger commitment to improve Renfrew Road was needed.

“I don’t think it’s incumbent on us as a council to go forward and approve it without a commitment to improve Renfrew Road.”

Collins also wanted less density and maybe a more traditional subdivision.

“I would prefer to see a little less density, especially when it comes to the townhomes. I’d prefer to just have single-family homes in keeping with the neighbourhood,” he said.

“I do love what the developer’s coming to the table with,” said Coun. Alena Glasman, but she agreed the density was too much.

Residents in the neighbourhood held a protest march against the proposed development earlier this month, where many voiced opposition to multi-family units.

Peachland group holding annual bird tour in watershed

Seeking owl watchers

Volunteers from the Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance (PWPA) are working to ensure that local northern pygmy owls don’t suffer.

On June 3, the group is hosting its third annual spring bird watching tour in the Peachland watershed, home of a community of northern pygmy owls, a rare species in B.C.

The group plans to document sightings and observations of the owls as part of a data collection project to determine their population and preferred habitat in this area.

A sub species of northern pygmy owl is on the endangered list on Vancouver Island, mostly because of habitat loss.

“The Peachland Watershed has been ravaged by industrial activity and it’s easy to see how much natural habitat has been destroyed,” says PWPA chair, Jack Gerow.

“Peachlanders don’t want to see these critical birds suffer the same fate as the owls on the coast and on the Island. So we need to get a handle on what their populations are doing. A family-friendly bird watching field trip is the perfect activity to get this done”

Bird watchers will also be on the lookout for other species of birds as well.

In 2021, a total of 68 species were recorded by the bird watching group.

The event starts at 9 a.m. at Hardy Falls Regional Park parking lot on June 3, rain or shine, and participants will travel up Princeton Avenue into the forests above Peachland.

The event is by donation, and participants should bring their own bag lunch.

More details are available on the PWPA website, www.peachlandwpa.org

Thousands attend rain-shortened World of Wheels

Rainy car show

Cindy White

A heavy downpour brought an early end to the World of Wheels Show & Shine in Peachland on Sunday, but it still drew a large crowd.

Organizers pulled the plug at 2 p.m., two hours earlier than planned, as a series of thunderstorms blew through.

Earlier in the day, thousands of people strolled down Beach Avenue to get a glimpse of everything from vintage automobiles to muscle cars to the newest innovations.

The kitted-out off-road vehicles of a couple of friends from Vernon attracted a lot of attention.

Mike Buell says people were drawn to the large awning he sourced from South Africa. "It has a lot of coverage, so that's probably the one thing that everyone has been asking about."

One of the businesses that set up a booth at the show is owned by a recent transplant to the Okanagan.

"I grew up in Toronto and had this business there with a friend and business partner of mine. I relocated to the beautiful Okanagan about three years ago, rebranded the business, and it's been excellent," said Andrew Morton of Drew's Autosports.

The Victoria Day long weekend marks the start of the car show season in the valley.

"The day before, Summerland has a car show, Spring Fling. They kick off the day before. It gets everyone into the valley, and then we have our car show," explains Randy Bloy, Vice President of Peachland World of Wheels.

He estimates that over the past 24 years, the car show has raised a couple of hundred thousand dollars for local charities, including more than $9,000 last year.

This was the second Peachland World of Wheels since the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the events in 2020 and 2021.

Peachland's splash pad to remain closed over the long weekend

Splash pad remains closed

The District of Peachland says the community's splash pad won't be open in time for the long weekend.

"We’re working on it but first we have to move the washroom building to its new home, then we have to re-route some electrical access to the Splash Pad," a Facebook post said

The municipality says the splash pad will be open by end of May or early June.

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