Fire at Mission Flats landfill sends black smoke billowing over parts of Kamloops

Fire not yet under control

UPDATE: 12:35 p.m.

The smell of the toxic smoke continues to spread across the North Shore and Downtown areas of Kamloops.

Kamloops Fire Rescue platoon captain Troy Grant spoke with Castanet Kamloops, explaining that crews have knocked the fire down a little bit at this time.

"We do have a large pile of metal that's still burning, it's been knocked down somewhat," Grant said.

He's not currently on scene, so he can't comment to what degree it has been knocked down, but the reporting officer said it is smaller than it was earlier Saturday morning.

"By no means is it under control yet," Grant said. "They are trying to get it to a spot where it's cool enough to tear the pile apart a little bit using machinery ... But the captain on location thinks we're going to be there for sometime yet."

At this time, there is one engine on scene, along with three water tenders to bring water from the fire hydrant at the start of Mission Flats to the fire scene.

UPDATE: 11:10 a.m.

Toxic, black smoke continues to pour from the large fire at Kamloops' Mission Flats Landfill and fire crews are warning those in the area to stay indoors and avoid breathing in the smoke.

"Please avoid the area, this smoke is potentially very toxic," Kamloops Fire Rescue posted to Twitter.

"It is the metal recycling area involved – a lot of appliances (including refrigerators) burning. KFR is requesting anyone downwind being affected by the smoke to shelter in place in their homes."

It's still unclear how the fire started. Smoke from the fire appears to be somewhat reduced as of 11:15 a.m., and firefighters remain on scene fighting the fire.

UPDATE: 10 a.m.

The fire burning at the Kamloops dump continues to burn Saturday morning, as fire crews hit the blaze with water.

There's no fire hydrant near the pile of burning metal, so three Kamloops Fire Rescue trucks are taking turns filling up their tanks near the start of Mission Flats and returning to hit the fire.

It's unclear at this time what sparked the fire.

UPDATE: 9:09 a.m.

A fire Saturday at the Mission Flats landfill sent a tower of black smoke billowing over parts of Kamloops.

Emergency crews were called to the dump just before 9 a.m. for a fire in a metal pile, according to the city.

“The landfill is currently closed and residents are asked to avoid the area,” the City of Kamloops said in a tweet.

“More details will be released as they become available.”

Castanet Kamloops has a reporter at the scene. This post will be updated when more information is known.

Do you have photos or video of the fire? Send them to [email protected]

ORIGINAL: 8:59 a.m.

A tower of black smoke is rising from the Mission Flats area on Saturday morning.

Kamloops residents are taking to social media sharing their photos of the smoke.

Calls from Castanet to Kamloops Fire Rescue have not yet been returned and a reporter is en route to the scene. This post will be updated when more information is known.

If you have photos or video you'd like to share, email it to [email protected]

Superintendent Terry Sullivan sends a memo to parents Friday after dress code controversy

SD73 looks at dress code

On Friday, School District 73 sent out a notice to parents in the district regarding the dress code for students.

Earlier this week, NorKam Secondary highlighted the issue with an incident involving 17-year-old Karis Wilson, prompting students to a walk-out and protest.

In response, Superintendent Terrance Sullivan said in a memo:

“I expect you are aware of an issue that occurred at NorKam Secondary School earlier this week. We are reviewing this incident and are concerned about the allegations and treat them very seriously.

This incident, like all incidents involving our students, is a matter that we cannot discuss publicly.Separately, but timely in regard to the issue at NorKam, is the review of the dress code Administrative Procedure.”

Sullivan added that the dress code has actually been under review for the last three months, and has drafted a new “district administrative procedure” which is currently under review by more senior members.

“Over the next two weeks, it will be discussed and reviewed at the board office, then a draft will be circulated to all of our partner groups for their input," he continued in the memo.

"Once a new Administrative Procedure is in place schools will then be directed to make their dress codes consistent with the new School District Administrative Procedure,” Sullivan said.

No other communication on the issue has been released at this time.

Businesses in Kamloops are teaming up to help each other as the pandemic continues

Local businesses team up

Kamloops business owners are continuing to feel the influences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hospitality industry has been hit especially hard.

So Pav Moore, General Manager of the locally owned and operated Thompson Hotel on Victoria Street, came up with some new bundle ideas to help business and businesses.

With Spring Break approaching, the Thompson Hotel is offering unique family packages.

In addition, they have launched a "Into the Night" special, a package that appeals to those looking for a different kind of date night. Included in the package is a dance lesson from local studio Let's Move, as well as a $50 gift card to a local restaurant of your choosing.

"It's so important to support the other businesses, because everything is word of mouth," Moore told Castanet Kamloops. "The more businesses backing each other, the more we can open our doors and help create a diverse business flow."

Neighbour, Al Renner, owner of Alchemy Brewing agreed with Moore.

"Anytime we can collaborate with next door we will," Renner said. "Mitchie's Delivery is the service we use and we were one of the first ones on board. I was approached by Tutti and Doordash, but anytime you can keep it local, you got to support the community."

For more information click here.

Former TNRD exec embroiled in $500K spending scandal remains involved with TRU fundraising campaign

Gill remains a TRU advisor

The former Thompson-Nicola Regional District executive who resigned this week from TRU’s board of governors in the wake of a $500,000 spending scandal remains an advisor for the university’s ongoing $50-million fundraising campaign.

Sukh Gill, former TNRD CAO, spent more than $500,000 of taxpayer money on meals, gifts, booze and hotels over a five-year period. Kamloops This Week detailed the lavish spending in a series of stories last week.

Following that reporting, Gill resigned his seat on Thompson Rivers University’s board of governors. He remains, however, on the cabinet of TRU’s Limitless campaign, which is closing in on its $50-million goal.

“The Limitless campaign is in its last stages and will wind down by March 31,” TRU spokesman Todd Hauptman told Castanet Kamloops.

“Individuals serving as members of the campaign cabinet are volunteers and act in an advisory role to the Limitless campaign fundraising efforts. Mr. Gill is a member of the cabinet.”

While Gill’s spending at the TNRD, as detailed by KTW, has raised many eyebrows in Kamloops, he is not accused of violating any laws or regional district policies. The TNRD has said it has since amended its policies to prevent such spending in the future.

There have been no allegations of any wrongdoing or excess spending on Gill's part in connection to either of his roles with TRU.

Gill left the TNRD abruptly in February 2020. The reasons for his departure are not clear.

TNRD board chair Ken Gillis is expected to hold a press conference on Monday morning to address the spending scandal.

Restoration of Highway 1 recognized nationally as inclusive project

Honour for highway project

A Kamloops-area highway engagement project has received national recognition from the Economic Developers Association of Canada (EDAC).

The project involves co-operation between the Neskonlith Indian Band and the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in the twinning of Highway 1 east of Kamloops.

“This highway twinning is crucial, both to improve safety for our community members while preserving this culturally and environmentally sensitive territory,” Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson said in a press release.

“We appreciate the willingness of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to meaningfully engage in a collaborative design process for this project with our community. This highway expansion will open up economic opportunities for our band and help drive the overall regional economy.”

This project received the award from EDAC’s Marketing Canada Awards, which recognizes excellence in community initiatives and marketing in economic development sector across Canada.

Portions of these highway upgrades will happen on two of Neskonlith Indian Band reserve lands.

“We are extremely proud of the meaningful engagement process with the Neskonlith on this particular highway project,” said Rob Fleming, B.C.’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “It’s an example of community involvement that had technical challenges but still resulted in an innovative outcome. Congratulations to the community members, Neskonlith leadership, and O’Leary & Associates on this milestone.”

The nuancing of this project was delicate, as the provincial and federal governments looked for an approach that would coincide with Neskonlith’s decision-making processes and adhere to Section 35 of the Indian Act while constructing the major infrastructure project.

Tk’wem7íple7s re qelmúcw (Chief and Council) ensured from the beginning that the project needed to integrate culture, language and tradition. They also made sure members of the community were involved in the decision-making process.

Tsk?elél?nemstcwes re stet?ex7ém (listening to the Elders) was the start of the project, and ample research of Secwépemc tradition and law were incorporated. Where ever they could, Secwépemctsín words, phrases and processes were used in project material.

“Congratulations to Neskonlith leaders and community members for being recognized nationally for excellence in collectively promoting their communities, furthering their economic development priorities and integrating culture, language and tradition through the Trans-Canada Highway Twinning Project,” Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar said.

“I look forward to seeing future initiatives incorporate a similar best practice with collaboration and meaningful consultation.”

Ninety-two per cent of the community supported the project to move onto the next phase after the initial engagement campaign explained what is to come.

“This project is a perfect example of how truly meaningful consultation and engagement with Indigenous communities, when done well, can result in a very positive and collaborative outcome for all parties,” added Colin O’Leary, Principal of O’Leary & Associates and project consultant for the Tmicw department at Neskonlith.

Though it will still be years before the project is complete, being recognized by the EDAC is a step in the right direction for the future of cooperation.

Crown wants nine years in prison for Kamloops-area man who repeatedly raped step-granddaughter

9 years for 'incest-like' rape?

A Kamloops-area man who repeatedly raped an exceptionally vulnerable young girl he was supposed to be raising, a case described in court as “incest-like,” could spend nine years in a federal prison.

The attacker, a 65-year-old carpenter, cannot be named under a court-ordered ban on publication put in place to protect the identity of his victim.

He was convicted following a trial last summer in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops on one count each of sexual assault and sexual interference of a person under 16. He was back in court on Friday as lawyers made sentencing submissions.

The victim is the granddaughter of the rapist’s wife. Now 13, the girl was taken in at a young age by the couple after her mother was murdered.

At trial, the victim said she couldn’t remember when the sexual abuse began, but she said it happened more than three times each week, usually when her grandmother was out of the house or in bed. She said the attacker would enter her bedroom and sexually assault her, sometimes touching her and other times raping her.

During her testimony in August, the girl said she would be called a “worthless bitch” if she resisted or tried to stop the attacker’s advances.

Court heard the final incident took place on Jan. 6, 2019 — the day before the girl reported the incident to a social worker, who then called police.

“The victim was the poster child for vulnerability,” Crown prosecutor Frank Caputo said Friday.

“Her mother had been murdered, she was residing in a parent-like relationship with the accused. He was a grandfather of sorts. She went to reside with him at a very young age, I believe two-and-a-half. For all intents and purposes, [he] was her father — the father to a very vulnerable Indigenous child whose mother had been killed.”

During his sentencing submissions, Caputo described the attacker’s relationship with the girl as “incest-like” — incest but for the fact the attacker and victim are not blood relatives.

Caputo asked B.C. Supreme Court Justice Len Marchand to impose a federal prison sentence in the range of seven to nine years.

Defence lawyer Dan McNamee, meanwhile, suggested as short a sentence as possible — as little as a year behind bars, the mandatory minimum the attacker is facing.

“There’s recognition that jail will be imposed,” McNamee said.

“The submission from the defence is for restraint. Your Lordship should exercise as much restraint as you can in sentencing [the rapist]. [He] ignored the humanity of the victim in his actions, but this court should not ignore his humanity. This court should not say he is a monster and sentence him as such.”

McNamee pointed out parts of the girl’s testimony where she mentioned “normal” things she did with the attacker like play baseball, shop and go to the movies.

“It’s not all been terrible,” he said. “There were some positives to what he was doing.”

Court heard the attacker, who attended residential school in Kamloops as a child, has a dated criminal record with his last conviction having been entered in the 1980s.

"I'm very sorry to [her]," he said in court on Friday when asked by Marchand if he had anything to say.

Marchand reserved his decision. Sentencing will take place at some point during the week of March 22.

The rapist remains free on bail.

Kamloops Crime Stoppers' weekly wanted list

Kamloops' most wanted

The following individuals were wanted by Kamloops RCMP as of the time of publication:

Name: Kristin Munro

Age: 29

Height: Five-foot-seven

Weight: 170 pounds

Race: Caucasian

Hair: Brown

Eyes: Green

File: 2020-13263

Wanted for: Flight from police; Operate vehicle with a dangerous purpose; drive while prohibited

File: 2020-20732

Wanted for: Assault with a weapon; assault

Name: Zachary Pittman

Age: 28

Height: Five-foot-11

Weight: 180 pounds

Race: Caucasian

Hair: Brown

Eyes: Hazel

File: 2020-9096

Wanted for: Deal identity document

Name: Burke Schulz

Age: 45

Height: Six-foot-three

Weight: 191 pounds

Race: Caucasian

Hair: Blonde

Eyes: Blue

File: 2019-19824

Wanted for: Theft under $5000

Kamloops' Old Courthouse, to be upgraded with recent grant money, has long, varied history

A long, varied history

From courthouse to hostel to arts-and-culture hub, one of Kamloops’ heritage buildings has had a long and varied history — and it's about to get a much-needed refresh.

Barbara Berger, the city’s recreation, social development and culture manager, said the Old Courthouse is a special building.

“I think it means a lot to the citizens of Kamloops,” she said.

The city announced Tuesday it has received nearly $500,000 to restore the iconic heritage building.

Upgrades include planned fixes to the slate roof, granite wall and wood detailing on the inside of the building.

“It's the first time that we've actually been successful in receiving a grant of this size,” Berger said.

“These are things now that, for the property, are really going to give it back that shine and prominence that it deserves.”

The courthouse was built in the early 1900s and the first case was heard in the building in 1909.

“If you think back to 1907, when they started constructing it, it was a clear vision down to the meeting of the waters, and it was very prominently situated,” she said.

“It’s always looked quite grand on this hill.”

According to Berger, the courthouse had some jail cells in the basement, where prisoners were kept prior to their hearings. The cells have since been removed.

Berger said the last court case was for a notorious murder in 1983. Then, the building went on the market.

The Canadian Hostel Association purchased it, and the building was home to a hostel for many years.

“While they were very mindful that they were in a designated heritage building, they had to make certain adjustments to the code for that kind of occupancy,” she said.

“They had to install sprinkler systems and things that in a 100-year-old building aren't the easiest or friendly kind of things to be doing to the plaster in ceilings and walls.”

The City of Kamloops bought the building in the late 2000s. Berger said it’s now an important tourist attraction and a cultural hub.

According to Berger, the first and longest living artist cooperative in the province is located downstairs in the building.

The Old Courthouse is also home to Theatre BC, with the upper court room currently used for exhibits and, before COVID restrictions, small concerts and other events.

“We saw for a number of decades where buildings like this might be turned into sort of quasi-commercial buildings. And people accepted that, if it meant they would be maintained and saved,” Berger said.

“I think that allowing it to become the cultural venue that it has become has just really resonated well with people.”

Kamloops man 'scared straight' after causing $10K in blood damage to neighbour's home during psychotic episode

$10K in blood damage

A former nurse who caused $10,000 in bloody damage to a neighbour’s townhouse after cutting himself while breaking in during a drug-induced psychotic episode last summer says he’s been “scared straight.”

Jonathan Phillips pleaded guilty in Kamloops provincial court on Thursday to two counts of forcible entry.

Court heard police were called to a townhouse complex in the 800-block of Sahali Terrace at about 5 a.m. on Aug. 30 for a report of a man in distress.

Phillips, 45, was hallucinating after using crystal meth. In his delusion, he believed a woman named Amanda was being tortured inside a townhouse neighbouring his. He believed it was up to him to save her, court was told.

When police arrived, they found broken glass and visible blood at one of the townhouse units. Phillips trailed blood throughout the home, causing extensive damage.

“He cut his head and hands on [the glass while breaking in] and then kind of bled all over the home while he walked around,” Crown prosecutor Katie Bouchard said.

“Because of the amount of blood that was involved, there was significant restoration work that had to occur.”

Mounties found Phillips in his neighbouring unit. Bouchard said he was “talking nonsense” when police began asking him questions.

“Mr. Phillips was angry at police for ignoring Amanda’s plight and was professing his love to her, vowing to eat the male alive who was torturing her,” she said.

Phillips is trained as a psychiatric nurse. Court heard his life went off the rails following a 2013 assault in which he suffered a serious brain injury.

He began finding himself in trouble with the law in 2015 and has amassed a significant record in recent years.

Bouchard said Phillips’ neighbour’s restoration work cost $10,000, and he has already repaid her the $500 she forked out as a deductible.

“I apologize for all the trouble I’ve caused,” Phillips said in court.

“I know what caused it — it was me being under the influence of methamphetamine, which caused psychosis. I know I can’t be doing that. I’ve scared myself straight. I’ve gone to hell and back, and I’m too scared to go back there.”

Court heard Phillips has not used drugs since the incident and he had been clean for more than three years before it.

Phillips was placed on three months of house arrest and a further 12 months of probation. He was also handed a five-year firearms prohibition.

Kamloops NorthPaws bring on power hitter from Utah

Utah talent joins NorthPaws

The Kamloops NorthPaws expanded their inaugural West Coast League roster with a Pac-12 middle infielder.

Zane Skansi, a freshman from the University of Utah, joins the team with a multi-sport background having grown up playing both baseball and football.

Skansi, from Gig Harbor, Wash., describes himself as a big hitter and an all-around player on the diamond.

“I’m a power hitter. I like to hit doubles and home runs. I can go gap to gap. I take pride in my defence as well,” Skanski said in a press release. “I love making the great plays but making the routine plays consistently is something I pride myself in too.”

Having his first collegiate at-bat on Feb. 21, Skansi pinch hit in Utah’s season-opening series which the Utes lost to Cal State Fullerton.

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