4 kilos of drugs hidden in SUV that was used in Vernon hit and run

Drugs hidden in SUV

Vernon RCMP say a Jeep Grand Cherokee that was seized following a hit and run in March contained a hidden compartment that contained more than four kilos of illegal drugs.

Police seized the SUV as part of an investigation following the March 24 hit and run of a man on a bicycle in a parking lot off 43rd Street.

"Numerous investigative avenues were pursued, however, police were not able to identify the driver, or occupants responsible for the hit and run and subsequent assault," the RCMP said Wednesday.

However, the vehicle was seized and police sought its forfeiture under the Civil Forfeiture Act.

"Prior to the vehicle going to public auction, a detailed search of the SUV was completed, which revealed an aftermarket compartment which contained four kilograms of methamphetamine and over 100 grams of cocaine."

Sgt. David Evans of the Vernon Targeted Policing Unit says: "This seizure is significant, and we are continuing to investigate with plans to propose drug charges."

Under the Armoured Vehicle and After Market Compartment Act, having such a compartment in a vehicle is prohibited. The hidden compartment has been removed.


Long-vacant home gutted by fire on Vernon's 39th Avenue

Vacant home fire contained

UPDATE: 1:45 p.m.

Firefighters have contained a fire that gutted a boarded up vacant house this morning on Highway 97 in Vernon.

Vernon Fire Rescue Services was called to the scene at 32nd Street and 39th Avenue about 7:30 a.m. Upon arrival, firefighters found the building was fully involved and the fire had got into the roof. 

“Due to the nature of the fire, we have not been able to gain complete access to the interior of the building,” says deputy chief Dwight Seymour. “To help us gain additional access, check for hot spots, and aid in the fire investigation, we have had a trackhoe brought in to remove portions of the building.”

Approximately 20 firefighters responded to the scene and managed to contain the fire before it spread to neighbouring structures.

Once the fire was under control, several of the firefighters were released from the scene. A ladder truck and seven crew members are still on site.

No injuries were reported in the incident.

The cause of the fire is currently unknown and is under investigation.

UPDATE: 11:45 a.m.

Traffic is flowing well again at the scene of a structure fire this morning on Highway 97 in Vernon.

Both southbound lanes of the highway are open again, and one full lane of northbound traffic is now open, with just a small portion blocked off in front of the scene, says City of Vernon spokesperson Christy Poirier.

A derelict home at the corner of 32nd Street and 39th Avenue caught fire early this morning.

UPDATE: 9:50 a.m.

Heavy equipment is being brought in to gain access to parts of a burning derelict home on Vernon's 39th Avenue.

The fire is under control, but it still burning, says city spokesperson Christy Poirier.

"Firefighters have not been able to gain full access to the interior of the structure yet, so heavy equipment will be brought in to pull portions of the building apart to provide better access."

Traffic continues to flow along Highway 97, but remains single lane in both directions between 39th and 41st avenues.

The original call to fire dispatch came in about 7:30 a.m., Poirier says.

Multiple apparatus and about 15 firefighters are currently on scene, as well as RCMP, paramedics and BC Hydro crews.

UPDATE: 9:35 a.m.

Firefighters have a fire in a derelict house on 39th Avenue in Vernon under control.

Crews are apparently waiting for the arrival of a back hoe to demolish the heavily damaged structure.

The house, which was built in 1901, has been vacant for years after falling into disrepair.

UPDATE: 9:10 a.m.

The City of Vernon is asking the public to stay away from the scene of a structure fire at a derelict home on 39th Avenue.

Traffic is moving slowly on Highway 97 (32nd Street, between 39th and 41st Avenues) as multiple fire units are on scene.

Traffic has now been reduced to single lane in both directions, as firefighters respond to the blaze.

The fire broke out in the two-storey heritage building on the corner of 32nd Street and 39th Avenue early Wednesday. 

RCMP and paramedics are also at the fire scene. 

"For the safety of the public and emergency personnel, please avoid the area and take an alternative north-south route through Vernon, if possible," the city advises.

ORIGINAL: 8:50 a.m.

A long-vacant home was gutted by fire Wednesday morning in Vernon.

Fire crews have 39th Avenue closed at the intersection of 32nd Street on Highway 97, across from the 7-Eleven.

Traffic is reduced to a single northbound lane on the highway.

The heritage home, which has been boarded up for years after falling into a derelict state, caught fire about 7:45 a.m., according to neighbours.

Thick smoke is pouring out of the building, and firefighters were fighting the blaze from a ladder truck as well as from the ground.

The cause of the fire is not yet known, or if anyone was inside the building.

Coldstream Meadows to close down 1950s-era seniors lodge

Seniors lodge to close

The owners of Coldstream Meadows Retirement Community say they have "made the difficult decision" to close part of the seniors development.

The Lodge is the oldest building at Coldstream Meadows, with the original building dating back to the 1950s, spokesperson Jack Borden said in email announcement on Wednesday. 

Borden co-owns the business with his wife, Elaine.

"Even though Coldstream Meadows and The Lodge have been kept safe from COVID, due to the extraordinary dedication and commitment of our staff, The Lodge has no future as a home for seniors. The cost of updating The Lodge to today’s safety standards would be prohibitive," he said.

The Lodge will close at the end of February 2021, affecting 25 residents.

In the meantime, Borden says management and staff will be "working with residents and their families to ensure that every resident is provided with the best possible option for relocation."

Other neighbourhoods within the Coldstream Meadows development, – The Cottages, The Views, The Terraces, and The Bungalows – "continue to flourish and provide a safe and secure choice for residents," says Borden.

"Relocation of Lodge residents to one of our other communities is an option that will be presented to residents."

In 2019, the facility was the subject of a court-ordered sale and was listed for $3.15 million in a dispute between two lenders, which Borden says has since been resolved.

The 57-unit lodge is located within a 23-acre mixed independent-living development including condos, row houses and bungalows.

Borden tells Castanet it would take "millions" to upgrade The Lodge to modern standards, adding that requirements for seniors housing have grown even stricter since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The building will be demolished, and while Borden says there will undoubtedly be future development on the site, he's "not in a position to announce any new development at this time."



Interior Health orders Davison Orchard pumpkin patch closed to public

Pumpkin patch shut down

A popular Vernon fall tradition has been shut down by Interior Health.

Davison Orchards says its pumpkin patch is now closed for the remainder of the season.

Pick-your-own-pumpkin tractor rides returned on Oct. 1, with COVID-19 safety measures in place, but management at the popular Bella Vista Road destination say Interior Health notified them that it classifies the U-pick fields as an event.

"Therefore, we are unable to open our fields. Thank you for understanding," Davison Orchard posted on its Facebook page, Wednesday.

"We still have thousands of pumpkins available for sale in the market area," said management.

The post has garnered hundreds of comments and shares, with most expressing frustration with the IH decision.

"Pack hundreds of people into Costco (large corporate business) = no problem! Outdoor pumpkin patch (small, local business) = too risky. What BS," wrote one Facebook user going by the monicker Cindy Lou-Who.

"Hats off to you guys for handling the situation as best as possible with Interior Health. It's been a rough year filled with changes. We will still come out and support the business and we will still get our pumpkins, we will just miss walking the fields looking for the perfect one," wrote Tegre Bolduc.

"Not sure how standing in line is more secure than being in the field, but it is what it is. See you Saturday!"

Tanya Elizabeth added: "This is unbelievable. When does it stop? I’m so sorry this happened to you and your wonderful business. This isn’t an event. It’s an outdoor family destination."


Controlled slash burns continue in the North Okanagan

See smoke? Worry not

If you see a large amount of smoke in the hills above Coldstream, there's no need to worry.

Controlled slash burns are happening on the King Edward ridge, causing significant amounts of smoke. Residents in the area were on high alert Wednesday morning, spotting the smoke and raising concerns on social media.

There are dozens and dozens of registered open burns that are ongoing in the North Okanagan, so if you spot smoke, it may just be a sanctioned slash burn.

All registered open burns are recorded on the BC Wildfire Service website, and can be accessed through their wildfire dashboard.

When you click on the main wildfire dashboard, select the dropdown menu in the top right-hand corner of the blue menu bar.

Public burns are listed under the OFTS Registered Burns and Prescribed Fire Map option.

Water a little funkier than expected? Here's what may be behind it

Funky water? Here's why

If your tap water has been musty lately, here's a likely explanation.

Residents across Vernon have been commenting on social media lately about cloudy, mouldy smelling water.

"I live on 24th Avenue, and lately my water has been tasting funky, almost like mildew. Anyone else having this problem in the area?" Dakota Borse asked on the Vernon and Area Community Forum Facebook page.

Several other members also sounded off, with similar reports coming from several neighbourhoods, including Mission Hill, Bella Vista, East Hill and Middleton Mountain.

"I’m also on 24th, and it tastes like dirt. Just the last couple of days," commented Megan Culham.

"Same! Smells like straight up mould ... I'm on 40th Ave.," said Elizabeth Ferro.

The post has garnered dozens of responses.

While several posters speculated on recent rains as a cause, there is a much more likely source.

"It doesn’t appear that a concern has been submitted to the city," spokesperson Christy Poirier told Castanet News. "It is recommended that customers reach out to Greater Vernon Water (which is operated through the RDNO) for a water quality test. Depending on the results, the city’s utilities department may be needed to attend to the system."

Meanwhile, the Regional District of North Okanagan issued a notice on Oct. 11 that water main flushing would be conducted in Coldstream and Vernon, commencing last week and into this week.

"When crews are flushing in your area, you may notice a reduction in water pressure, additional sediment, or discolouration of the water," states the district. "During this time, you may choose to boil or not drink the water. Checking your water before doing laundry is strongly advised."

The flushing removes accumulated sand and silt from water mains.

Vernon geologist makes gold, silver, zinc discovery southeast of Cherryville

Gold strike in Monashees

A Vernon geologist has gold fever after a recent discovery in the Monashee Mountains, southeast of Cherryville.

Milosz Mielniczuk says he became hooked on prospecting after graduating from Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan with a degree in geology.

Gold was riding the tail end of a bull market run at the time in 2012, "then went in the dumps."

Mielniczuk says he started his own company, Aurum Vena Mineral Resources, "trying to keep the gold fever alive."

His gold strike is on one of his first prospects, which also contains a historic quartz mine dating back to 1899.

This past year, he started exploring near those claims, in newly clearcut areas.

"Normally, gold finds are in quartz veins," he says, but this one is in what is believed to be a sulphide deposit.

Mielniczuk took samples from several large boulders and had them analyzed, with the results coming back positive for gold, silver and zinc.

His discovery has caught the eye of larger players, and Mielniczuk recently completed his first option agreement with Eagle Plain Resources of Cranbrook.

"Basically, that means it's getting a more serious look now," he says.

"There's only so much a guy with a rock hammer can accomplish ... I don't have excavators and all that stuff. Now, we are going to be doing some airborne geophysics to find the source of the boulders."

While he's no multi-millionaire yet, Mielniczuk says the cash and shares option with a 1% net smelter cut could pay off big time if they hit the motherlode.

"We'll see what it turns into," he said Tuesday. "Quartz vein finds are usually quite narrow; this boulder field could be wide ... it just depends on what the gold gods give you."

Mielniczuk says he's been prospecting for five years, and is excited at the possibilities.

The option deal provides $150,000 for five more years of exploration on the site near Lightning Peak.

His discovery comes as gold is back riding high in the markets at more than $1,900 an ounce.

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