Penticton safety and bylaw services seeing uptick in calls

Safety, bylaw calls rising

Public safety services in Penticton are busy preparing themselves for the spring and summer season, which has already seen an increase in calls for fire, police and bylaw help.

Fire chief Larry Watkinson told the city's Safety and Security Advisory Committee Monday that preparing for wildfire season is top of mind, with his team already seeing up to six-hectare grass fires popping up near the community.

A newly-hired Fire Smart coordinator will be working with the community on how individuals can mitigate wildfire risk on their own properties, contributing to a safer city as a whole.

And warm weather means more recreation.

"People are back on the water," Watkinson said, noting calls to the marina have already increased, including a boat sinking just off Okanagan Beach Friday.

"The lake is very cold so we’re trying to get that mindset out there too. And I did actually see people floating down the channel this weekend," Watkinson said. The channel is always a source of concern for the fire department, which responded to an unusually high 15 near-drowning rescues in 2020.

City bylaw services have also seen the effects of nicer weather and more people in town.

"Bylaw has been really busy this past month, April was definitely a busy month for us, we had 417 active bylaw calls,” said bylaw services manager Tina Siebert at the meeting.

Those calls include 65 for discarded or abandoned property, 63 for transient camps, and 25 for wellness checks. There has also been an uptick in graffiti and vandalism.

"The warmer weather brings out a lot of these types of issues," Siebert explained.

City council will discuss at its meeting Tuesday extending bylaw services hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily to 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

RCMP are also readying for the busier season.

"There’s a lot more people out. We’re getting more lower-level issues, mischief, disturbance, those kinds of things,” said Staff-Sgt. Kristen Marshall.

“We’re trying to mitigate more of these issues right now. It’s also a good time for us to get more information to the public just about securing belongings, what they can do to keep themselves safe."

She said an interesting challenge at this time is how to enforce changing rules around gathering sizes, masks and other provincial health orders.

"And actually the biggest thing we're getting calls about is license plates, seeing international license plates and now of course there's all these questions about moving from one health region to the other," Marshall said.

"It is complicated and made more complicated by the fact that the orders change fairly regularly."

The RCMP are now getting their boats in the water, ATVs and other vehicles ready to go in anticipation of a busy summer.

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