Dry Lake wildfire status updated to "being held"

Dry Lake wildfire being held

The status of the largest blaze in the Kamloops Fire Centre has been updated to "being held."

The designations means that the Dry Lake fire, located north of Princeton, is no longer anticipated to spread beyond existing or predetermined boundaries. 

As of Wednesday morning, 63 personnel and nine pieces of heavy equipment are on scene, supported by three helicopters. 

The air support is applying water to the hottest areas of the fire to allow ground crews to reinforce control lines safely. 

Currently, 43 properties along Highway 5A between Allison Lake and Princeton remain on evacuation alert. 


Albertan vacationers in Penticton say a lug nut was stolen from their car and others loosened

Another lug nut mystery

Another couple visiting from Alberta says they found their lug nuts loosened on one of their tires and one missing when visiting Penticton Monday. 

“My wife gets super paranoid and she had heard in the news I think a couple weeks ago about [it happening] to somebody traveling back.”

Many instances have been reported lately of people's tires coming off, mainly drivers with out-of-province license plates.

Kris Roberts brought his torque wrench with him to give his wife peace of mind, not expecting to actually have to use it when regularly checking his tires. 

“The likelihood of that happening has got to be slim to none,” Roberts said. 

The couple say they made sure their lug nuts were on tight before they left and daily when visiting. 

When they came back to their car parked down at the Empire Motel near Skaha Lake on Monday morning, that's when the front tires were missing a lug nut and the rest of them were loosened. 

“I was doing the walk around and saw the lug nut was missing,” Roberts said.

“I didn’t think that this would actually really happen, I was more bringing the torque wrench to prove a point.”

Roberts was able to purchase another lug nut to fit onto his car before the trip home.

“At least we were prepared for the situation and nothing bad happened,” Roberts said. 

He also routinely does the maintenance on the family vehicles and has even taken time to build cars, adding that it was pretty clear someone had tampered with the car. 

“I do all our maintenance so I do know that a lug nut, one individual is not just going to come off all the way like that. It would take time and the wheel would be wobbling, it’s noisy. It definitely seemed suspicious.”

However this didn’t dampen his view of Penticton or traveling to BC.

“I believe that this is more than likely not the consensus of the majority of the people there that would do something like that. No matter where you go or what you do, there’s always some idiot.”

Roberts just wanted to make sure that people know what to do to be safe. 

“People should maybe just be careful, the last thing you want to see is somebody get hurt or something bad to happen. Losing a tire as you’re driving can be very dangerous.”

Penticton RCMP seeking ID of alleged thief who nabbed bikes worth $20,000

Bikes worth $20K stolen

Penticton RCMP are seeking help finding a suspect caught on security camera after allegedly nabbing over $20,000 worth of bikes from a local residential garage. 

Sometime during the night of July 17, the Killarney Street garage was burglarized, with the thief making away with three pricy bikes: an Evil Wreckoning, Trek Slash 9.8, and a 2012 Pivot Firebird.

Police believe a man spotted on surveillance footage may have been involved. 

"Should anyone have information about this theft, and in particular the identity of the suspect captured on surveillance, they’re encouraged to contact the Penticton RCMP, 250-492-4300,” said Cst. James Grandy.



Upcoming weather forecasts expect to see warmer temperatures continue after a cooler start to summer

Summer might be extended

The Okanagan saw a very different weather pattern, especially through the month of July this year.

“We started out cold and wet, ended up really hot and dry, but it didn’t turn hot and dry until later than we usually get. It usually comes between the third and the tenth - the change here in the southern interior - but it didn’t come until much later in the month,” said Doug Lundquist, Meteorologist for Environment Canada. 

The average was also a degree lower than usual in Penticton, coming in at 20 degrees instead of 21. Precipitation across the region was also lower than previous years, with Kelowna seeing half the usual amount of precipitation, and Vernon only at a third.

“It was perhaps perfect in the sense that here in the Okanagan it was cold and wet through May through July and that's helped to put a damper on the fire weather season which only recently just started,” Lundquist said. 

“The more rain we have the deeper level of moisture we have… it does take some time for that to dry out.”

However, he added that the top layer of grasses and small twigs dry out quickly and create easy fuel. 

“Certainly you can get going with fire weather after the kind of heat we’ve been through and that’s why we’ve seen a spike there over those last few days.” 

The last week of July and the first week of August remains the hottest time of the year, where Lundquist adds where heat waves could be. 

“That time of year is pretty much past us to try and make a 40 degree [high].”

There is an expectation for cooling off in the coming week, which will hopefully help provide assistance for firefighters Lundquist added.

Records were also broken for hottest days, and August 3 was in the top five for warmest ever nights in Penticton recording at 23.3 for the overnight low.    

The upcoming forecast for the month is switching between hot days and cooling down with some rain. 

However the next three month forecast expects that there’s a high likelihood of being warmer than average. 

“Maybe just maybe, summer will get extended into the fall and we might see some summer weather persisting.”

Service industry manager shares COVID-19 experience

'Blessing and a curse'

An Okanagan man working in the service industry is sharing his experience and some tips for those looking to enjoy summer winery visits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bryan Penfound spends the summer months managing a winery tasting room on the Naramata Bench and he says reopening amid Phase 2 of the province's reopening plan "has been both a blessing and a curse."

"There's a lot of people that are travelling and they're very fortunate to be able to travel to the Okanagan," he said, speaking not on behalf of the winery he works for, but himself and his colleagues.

"Theres a lot of miscommunication happening between the servers in the industry and the people that are expecting a normalized vacation."

Penfound says while some of his staff are grateful to return to work, they are now facing some unique problems.

"Fewer people want to work, yet the demand in the service industry is higher than ever. For some, the risk of exposure to COVID is significant enough that they are uncomfortable coming back to work. For others, it is easier to remain on CERB than come back to work," he says.

"Whatever the reason, the bottom line is that the service industry is severely understaffed with regards to how high the demand is." 

Because there is less staff able to work, the staff who have chosen to return are feeling overworked. These servers who are returning are likely not getting a wage increase as companies are scrambling to regain revenue lost during these unprecedented times. 

"And with physical distancing making the number of tables in the average restaurant lower than normal, this means that it is harder to supplement a server's wage with tips, making it even more appealing to remain on CERB for some," says Penfound.

"While it was very beneficial to have at the beginning, I know that some people are trying to balance still receiving that funding and working as little as possible to make up a little bit of extra money so thats certainly been a little bit of an issue for some of my colleagues because they can't bring people back full-time.

Or they have people who are not willing to come back cause of the risk. We are really at risk as a service industry. People who are caring for individuals who are immunocompromised obviously don't want to work."

In addition to this, many guests expect to receive normalized service without being aware of COVID-19 safety protocols. 

"We're still getting quite a few people that just don't really understand that we have a lot of policies in place to really protect us and our guests," says Benfound, adding he has encountered some negative experiences with customers as a result of this.

Some of the biggest challenges include people not being aware that reservations are essential when visiting a winery as well as there is a six-person maximum for tastings. Lots of groups between 10 and 12 people are frequently being turned away. 

But Benfound says there has been a lot of positive feedback from customers visiting.

"They get a lot more time to talk with my staff and have a very good conversation about the wines, food pairings, things like that," he says.

"We're really happy to be hosting people and we're really happy to see the support but a lot of people just need that understanding that if their expectation is to have a normalized experience, then thats not what we're going to be able to deliver."

While policies vary from winery to winery, Benfound has shared some words of advice for visitors:

"Be kind. Your servers are likely overworked, underpaid and stressed out. If we are short with you, it’s likely because we’re exhausted trying to get everyone to adhere to our safety protocols. 

"Book ahead and have patience. Your servers will do their best to accommodate you, but they can’t always make that happen in a timely manner due to the high demand. Understand that sometimes we have to turn you away. 

"Keep your close contact group small. Your servers represent a unique at-risk group due to the sheer number of guests seen during a given shift, so keep us safe by keeping yourself safe and keeping your bubble small.

"From all of us in the service industry we thank you whole-heartedly for your support and understanding."

Penticton Public Library happy to have the public back in for their reopen

Library busy for reopen

An estimated 90 people came through the Penticton Public Library in the first hour it reopened on Tuesday. 

The library will be open Tuesday to Saturday from 12 p.m. to 4p.m for book browsing and limited computer use. 

A COVID safety plan was developed with a joint health and a safety committee to make sure proper procedures were in place. This includes limited numbers in the library, social distancing signage, one way traffic through the book stacks and protocol for returned books.

“Everything that's returned goes through quarantine,” said Heather Buzzell, chief librarian of the Penticton Public Library. “Say it was checked in today, we wouldn’t actually check it in until it’s been through the three days of quarantine.”

The library will be backlogging the books to make sure the patrons don’t end up with overdue fees. 

“We’re also asking patrons not to return books to the shelves, so if you're browsing and you find something but you don’t really want it, we’ve got bins set up around the library to put them into.”

The staff will then sanitize the books before returning them to the shelves. 

Patrons can also put books on hold for curbside pickup on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. separate from library hours to mitigate the amount of people in the library. 

“We are just so happy to be open to the public again and see our patrons through,” Buzzell said.

Largest wildfire in the Kamloops Fire Centre region is still burning

Guard established at fire

UPDATE 3:55 p.m.

The Dry Lake wildfire remains classified as out of control but fire fighters have been able establish a full guard around the fire, which now sits at 21 hectares. 

"There still might be some work needed to be done, but we're making good progress in terms of getting that full perimeter wrapped off and hopefully working into the fire, and cooling off some of the hot spots," 

Fifty-one personnel, ten heavy equipment and 4 helicopters remain on scene. 

Nearby fires at Kump Lake and Larkin Lakes are both being handled by one crew and are currently being held. No anticipation of growth with those two.

ORIGINAL 11:48 a.m

The Dry Lake wildfire, the largest in the province, remains out of control. 

The BC Wildfire Service has declared the 22-hectare blaze a "fire of note."

The fire is burning approximately 24 kilometres northwest of Princeton above Highway 5A and was discovered on Sunday.

Fifty one personnel on site, three helicopters, three water tenders and 10 pieces of heavy equipment are currently on scene. 

The BC Kamloops Wildfire centre stated that cool temperatures last night and this morning are helping crews with suppression efforts today. 

“Definitely having cooler weather in the evening and this morning allows for us to be able to establish control lines quicker and allow for those fields to soak up that moisture as well,” said fire information officer Gagan Lidhran. 

The equipment efforts have made steady progress in their machine guard and crews are tackling the areas in steep sections.

Ground teams are working to establish control lines safely with helicopters tackling the hottest areas. 

Once the fire guard is completed, the team will “be able to actually control the fire.”

Firefighters will work their way into the fire to expand their water delivery system while also wrapping the fire in hose lay once it is safe, Lidhran said.

So far, 43 properties along Highway 5A between Allison Lake and Princeton have been placed on an evacuation alert. Updates on the evacuation alert can be found on the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen website.

The Solco Creek fire, which is east of Okanagan Falls, is still at 13.8 hectares in size, and classified as held. 26 personnel remain on site to patrol hot spots within the fire perimeter. 

The Campbell Creek forest service road fire remains under control at 0.4 Hectares.

“The fire has received sufficient suppression action to ensure no further spread,” Lidhran said.

Surrounding fires in the area are still considered spot fires and will be updated as their status progresses.

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